Relax to Get a Better Night's Rest
Having trouble falling asleep? These strategies can help you overcome anxiety and stress so that you can get a good night's sleep.
We all need quality sleep to be at our best. And a good night's sleep should be more than just a sweet dream.
Unfortunately, when you feel anxious and stressed, falling asleep can be tough. Runaway thoughts can cause you to toss and turn all night - and that makes sleep virtually impossible. Even the anxiety that comes from being unable to sleep can create a vicious circle of unrest.
The role of relaxation Imaging studies show that the brain is quite active in people who are having trouble sleeping. When you are feeling stressed, the body naturally releases brain chemicals that prepare you to fight or flee. That's good in situations where you have to act right away, like when you swerve to avoid a traffic accident. But it's not so good when you're trying to rest.
Finding ways to bring your system back into balance can help you sleep better. This means lowering stress hormones, slowing your heart rate and blood pressure, and easing muscle tension. When you're in a more relaxed state, sleep may be less elusive.
Presleep plan There are a number of things you can do that may help put you at ease and prepare you for sleep. Some are as simple as unwinding just before bedtime by taking a hot bath or reading a book. Other techniques may take a little more practice. But they are easy to learn. Here are three relaxation techniques:
Breathing exercises. Take a breath and hold it for 5 seconds. Repeat this several times, focusing on the sound of the breath. Or, as an alternative, practice repeatedly inhaling through your nose - enough that your lower abdomen rises - and exhaling through your mouth. While exhaling, contract your abdominal muscles and push out as much air as possible. Progressive muscle relaxation. Starting with your feet, tense large muscle groups one at a time, holding until you count to 10. Then relax the muscles, noting how the tension flows away as your feet become looser. Slowly work your way up your body. Visualization. Picture yourself in a peaceful, comfortable setting. Imagine what you would see, hear, smell and feel in this restful place. The more sensory details you can incorporate, the better.
The ABZzz's of sleep Relaxation techniques may help you get better sleep and awaken refreshed and ready to start your day. Good "sleep hygiene" can help, too. Here are the basics:
Keep a regular sleep schedule. Avoid alcohol, caffeine, and large meals before bedtime. Make your bedroom dark, quiet, and slightly cool.
If you try these techniques and still don't sleep any better, talk with your doctor.