Sleep health experts are trying to warn us that we’re all starting to sleep less and less. Some people say that this all started with the industrial revolution. Other people say that it happened because of electronic devices and the internet. But what studies say is the worst sleep thief is actually just work. Pressure to be productive, complicated work relationships, and constant worrying about keeping your job are causing huge problems for our nighttime rest.
“Beyond living and dreaming, there is something more important. Waking up.”-[Translation] Antonio Machado-
One thing you should never forget is that any changes to your sleep’s circadian rhythm will bring along a flood of problems. Your memory, attention, learning capabilities, and even your mood can feel the effects of a bad night’s sleep.
You also can’t forget that we’re already sleeping less and less as a society. There’s an interesting article about this that you can read in Psychology Today. The thing is, it seems like no one even realizes how tired they really are…
It’s something worth stopping and thinking about…
Relaxation techniques to help you sleep better
Are you in debt with your nighttime rest? If you are, the best thing you can do is use relaxation techniques to help you sleep better. It’s been shown that these simple breathing, meditation, and progressive relaxation techniques are really helpful for getting good sleep. But it’s also worth mentioning some other key parts of making sure you sleep as well as you can.
- Circadian regulation “exists” in every single cell in your body. It’s there in your liver, your kidneys, your brain, your lymphatic system, and even your skin. They’re all programmed to do really important things at night, while you’re asleep. That’s why you need to respect light-dark cycles as much as possible, and sleep when it’s darker out.
- You should try to eat light dinners.
- It’s also good to stop using electronic devices at least two hours before going to bed. They’re very stimulating for your brain, so it can be hard to get to sleep.
- Your room temperature should be between 15 and 22 degrees. If it’s any colder or any hotter, that might affect your sleep.
1. The Chi Kung technique to help you sleep better
Chi Kung has its roots in traditional Chinese medicine. For anyone unfamiliar with it, this Eastern practice is about maintaining your health by balancing your mind, your breathing, and doing physical exercise. There are a lot of exercises in this practice that can help you sleep better. Here’s just one of them.
- Sit down with your legs crossed on the bed, barefoot.
- Let your mind go blank. Let go of all your thoughts and focus on your breathing.
- Inhale a little bit of air through your nose, and then exhale loudly from your mouth. Repeat this process four times.
- Now massage the sole of a foot with just one finger. You make a clockwise, circular motion with your finger for 3 minutes. Then you do it with the other foot.
2. Exercise based on autogenic training
This technique is really effective for treating anxiety disorders and psychosomatic disorders. Autogenic training was developed in the 20th century by the neurologist and hypnosis specialist, Johannes H. Schultz. The main goal is to focus your attention on your physical sensations. You use that as a basis to get to a state of deep relaxation.
Let’s look at an example.
- Lie down on your bed. Make sure you feel comfortable.
- Close your eyes and focus on your left arm. Mentally repeat: “my left arm is heavy, it’s really heavy and it feels hot, too.“
- Repeat that sentence five times until you physically perceive that weight and that heat.
- Once you feel it, say to yourself “now I feel relaxed, now I’m completely calm.”
- Then, breathe deeply and raise that arm, feeling how light and relaxed it is.
- After that, repeat this whole process with another part of your body.
3. Guided imagery and music
One of the most well-known techniques for sleeping better is guided imagery. This one is actually just as useful for relaxation as it is for treating physical pain. This is basically because it’s based on the idea that mind and body are connected. That strong bond is something you can use to your advantage in your daily life.
Here’s an example that might be able to help.
- Sit down on your bed, comfortable, calm, and relaxed.
- You can use any kind of relaxing music you like: ambient sounds, relaxed melodies…
- Now, put an image into your mind. It should be some kind of peaceful setting with soft, surrounding, and relaxing stimuli. It can be something like a lake house, a forest, and island, a meadow at sunset…
- All your senses should be receptive to the stimuli. Feel the the freshness of the breeze, the smell of the forest, the sound of the trees shaking from the wind, the sun on your skin…
4. Slow, deep, conscious breathing
When it comes to any of these relaxation techniques to help you sleep better, breathing control always plays a part. Breathing well and breathing right can bring huge benefits to your body. One thing that can be extremely helpful for you is to learn to do diaphragmatic breathing.
The goal of this kind of breathing is to get most of the air to the part below your lungs. That way you’ll intake more oxygen, your lungs will get some extra benefits, and you’ll help your whole body relax even more.
- Start by breathing deeply for 4 seconds, and direct all the air towards your stomach.
- Now hold in that breath for 7 seconds.
- Then exhale loudly out of your mouth for 8 seconds.
It’s a good idea to try each of these relaxation techniques to help you sleep better. After you’ve tried them all, you can choose whichever one, or ones, suit you best. The best thing you can do is make them your own. Make them a part of your nightly routine just half an hour before you go to bed. As the weeks go by, you’ll start to notice the amazing effects.