As our nation continues to look towards medication to help them sleep, new research has shown that a holistic mental approach is a more effective and less costly method for tackling sleep problems.
Stress and anxiety are two of the most common causes of sleep problems. This article contains six relaxation techniques to help you relax deeply and fall asleep.
1. Progressive Muscle Relaxation
In this relaxation technique, we’re going to tense the various key muscles of our body one by one. During the day, we store tension in our bodies without even realizing it. This technique helps release that tension, leaving your body relaxed and ready to fall asleep.
- Starting with your feet, stretch out all your toes, hold it for 10 seconds, and then relax.
- Moving up to your legs, point out your feet and tense the muscles in your legs for 10 seconds.
- Make a claw like pose with your hand and tense for 10 seconds, and then relax.
- Now to your arms, place your hands on your hips tense your biceps for 10 seconds, and then relax.
- Now to the tops of your arms to your shoulders, tense them by moving them in a circular motion for 10 seconds, and then relax.
- Finally to your torso, tense your abdominal area for 10 seconds, as if you are trying to sit up straight using these muscles alone, and then relax.
- Feel the weight of your very heavy body sinking into your bed, getting heaver with each out breath.
As you complete each step, notice how relaxed that area of your body feels. The more you notice that soft feeling in your muscles the more relaxed you will become.
2. Deep Breathing Visualization
When using this technique, breathe from you diaphragm so your stomach goes in when you breathe out and goes out when you breathe in. When breathing in, fill your lungs with as much air that feels comfortable. The term for this is diaphragmatic breathing.
- Begin by taking some deep breaths. Push all the way out, and gently breathe in.
- Once you have finished breathing in, hold it in count to 3 in your mind before breathing out, and do the same when you breath out before you breathe in again.
- With each breath imagine a relaxing sensation flowing up your body, like the needle of a thermometer slowly rising.
- Imagine this sensation flowing up your legs, down your arms to your fingers, and finally up over your head.
- Intensify this sensation with each breath, noticing how relaxed you feel.
You can keep intensifying the feeling for as long as you wish or stop at the level you feel most comfortable. Try to stay with this feeling until you fall asleep.
3. Elevator Visualization
This technique helps you relax by ignoring the outside world, going deep into the quiet of your subconscious mind.
- Imagine an elevator, like something you would expect to see at a grand five star hotel.
- When you’re ready, press the button, and when it arrives, step into it.
- Notice the grand array of minus numbers to the right of the elevator. Press the number that feels most appropriate for how deep you want to go.
- As you travel down, watching the floor numbers slowly decrease, notice yourself coming less aware of your immediate surroundings, and more aware of this visualization happening right now inside your mind.
- Once the elevator has reached its destination, open the doors and imagine your ultimate place of relaxation.
- Find somewhere to relax, and stay in this mental place for as long as it takes for you to fall asleep.
Your unique place of relaxation could be a cloud overlooking the earth, a private island with a beach and palm tress, a cave full of crystals lit with candles, or a castle high in the mountains.
You can go as deep as you feel comfortable. You might want to set a different location for each floor level, or pick a random floor each night and see where it takes you.
4. Disassociate from any Nagging Thoughts
Below is a classic NLP technique to silence any nagging thoughts that occupy your mind that may be preventing you from sleeping.
- Notice the thought playing in your mind. Notice where in your mind that thought is located.
- Make the thought still. Stop all its movement and mute its sound, so the thought is more like a photograph than a film.
- Drain all the color so the thought looks like an old grayscale photograph.
- Step out of the frame of the thought and move yourself away from it, putting distance between yourself and that thought.
- Reduce its size to a postage stamp, and then to a tiny spec, and finally to nothing at all.
You can repeat this process as many times as you wish to as many thoughts as you like. If an insistent thought keeps propping up, ask yourself, is this thought trying to give me a message. If it is, imagine taking the message from the thought like a rolled up piece of paper in a sealed bottle. You can then dismiss the thought using the technique above. With no reason for it to turn up again, the thought will simply disappear.
5. Day Review
This technique puts a close to your day by reviewing everything that’s happened, creating a feeling of sleepiness and contentment at what you have achieved.
- Review your entire day, starting from you first woke up. What did you do, who did you talk to, what did you eat, what did you do just before you went to bed? Notice every fine detail.
- As you review your day, make your internal voice become slower, and deeper and more sleepy with each word.
- If there is anything you couldn’t quite get done in the day that you wanted to, give permission for that task in your mind to be fulfilled in the future, at a time that is most appropriate.
- Now, place your awareness from the past and onto the future. Voice in your mind what thoughts if any come up, in that slow deep sleepy voice. Notice yourself becoming more drowsy.
- Notice the space in-between your thoughts. Place your awareness on that gap and try to increase it between every thought you have.
Most of us don’t realize just how much we have achieved in a day. By looking over what we have achieved and allowing future time for the inevitable tasks that have yet to be completed, we can become at peace that now is time to sleep, and provide our next day with the best possible start.
6. The Mental Sleeping Pill
This quick 5 minute relaxation technique will help you relax and unwind after a busy day by placing your attention on feelings of deep relaxation.
- Breathe slowly and deeply from your diaphragm, using as much of your lungs that feels comfortable.
- In a slow deep sleepy voice, affirm to yourself how relaxed you feel, that now is the time to sleep, and how you are able to sleep deeply every night.
- Imagine times when this was true and step into those thoughts, amplifying those feeling of sleepiness and relaxation.
- Continue repeating your chosen affirmations and stepping into those thoughts, until you fall asleep.
Given that it takes around 30 minutes to feel the effects of a sleeping pill, this quick relaxation technique works better than any traditional sleeping medication on the market, without any side effects!
How to Visualize
Everyone can visualize. If I ask you what color your front door is, whether it has any windows and where on the door is your house number, your brain would have to create metal visualization to answer those questions.
Whilst everyone can visualize, some people can visualize much deeper and more vividly than others. A Zen master may be able to stay in a vivid visualization for days under deep meditation, but it’s a skill that anyone can develop.
If you’re new to visualizing, start with basic visualizations. Imagine slicing open a lemon with a knife. Notice the color of the lemon, the sound of the knife slicing through it, the texture of the lemon on your hands and then the juice flowing from it, that zesty smell and the taste as you lick the juice off your fingers. Really invoke all your senses into your visualizations and they will become more vivid. Over time you will be able to make them last longer without any distracting thoughts.
You might find it useful to start with guided visualizations. Hypnosis Downloads, who I highly recommend for their Insomnia Beater Hypnosis Pack, offer a range of guided visualization adventures, from flying in a space ship to traveling deep under the ocean.
Keep at it and have fun. Please feel free to print this page so you have these relaxation techniques at hand whenever you wish to use them.