There may be some days when you are so stressed and tense at the end of the day that it feels impossible to fall asleep. When you need it most, sleep alludes you. There are a number of exercises that relieve stress, relax muscles and help your body drift to sleep. These are often referred to as Relaxation Techniques. Slowed heart rate, lowered blood pressure, increased blood flow and reduction of chronic pain and muscle tension are just a few of the benefits of using relaxation techniques mentioned by the Mayo Clinic.
One technique, suggested by the University of Maryland Medical Center is called Toe Tensing. Laying down, flex your toes towards you and count to 10. Then relax your toes and count to 10. Repeat this cycle at least 10 times. The idea is to draw tension down from the rest of your body into your toes. As you tense your toes, other muscles will relax.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation
The Mayo Clinic suggests a technique that involves engaging all of your muscles in tension and relaxation. It is called progressive muscle relaxation. Start with your toes and working up your body, tense each muscle group for 30 seconds. Then relax that same muscle group for 30 seconds. The idea is that you will be more aware of your tension and become more physically aware of what relaxation feels like.
The National Institute of Health discusses guided imagery as a method of relaxation. You can listen to a recording, have someone speak to you or simply walk yourself through this technique mentally. In this technique a relaxing place or situation is brought to mind, allowing you to picture it mentally and focus your thoughts. This technique is also sometimes called visualization.
Other techniques include deep breathing, repeating single words or mantras while picturing them in your mind or simply listening to relaxing repetitive sounds such as ocean waves or rain. There are also ways to reduce stress for the long term. Exercises, especially ones that focus on stretching and breathing, such as yoga, can relieve day to day stress over time.
On a really tough day, try one of these techniques to help get you to sleep. They can also be useful to relieve stress at work. Just practice one for a few minutes right at your desk. Be careful not to fall asleep there! Do you have any favorite ways to relax after a tough day?