How to Ease Yourself Into Sleep With Progressive Muscle Relaxation


A big part of cognitive-behavioral therapy for insomnia is learning exercises to help your body relax before bed. One way to do this is through progressive tensing and relaxing of your muscles while lying in bed.

"Start at one end and work your way up or down your body," says Joyce Walsleben, PhD, assistant professor at New York University School of Medicine. "Feel your muscles clench and then release, how they're lying on the bed, how the covers fall over your body. Make it as elaborate or inconsequential as needed to put you into a cocoon of sleep."

Another version of muscle relaxation: Imagine a wave of relaxation flowing down your body, from your head to your feet. You can give the wave a color, sound, or temperature.

More relaxation tricks

"You should personalize the experience as much as you want," says Kathy Doner, MD, who runs a hypnotherapy practice in Sebastian, Fla. "You might start by just noticing your breath with your hand on your tummy. Then with each out breath, focus on a different section of the body and say a word like 'calm,' 'relax,' or 'peaceful,' whatever works for you. You're redirecting your attention to a part of the body, and when the mind is focused on the body, it's not thinking 'I can't sleep.'"

Try progressive muscle relaxation tonight.