After a long, stressful day at the office or chasing the kids around, crawling under the covers sounds like the best idea ever. What if, once you crawl into bed and shut your eyes only to find yourself laying there unable to fall asleep?

 Try these four relaxation techniques:

Toe tensing. It may sound a bit odd, but by alternately tensing and then relaxing your toes you draw tension away from the rest of your body. Here’s how:

  1.  Lie on your back with your eyes closed
  2. Concentrate on your toes then pull all 10 toes back toward your face
  3. Count to 10 slowly
  4. Relax your toes for a count of 10
  5. Repeat the cycle 10 times

Progressive relaxation is a technique that is most useful when you tape record yourself so that when you’re in progressive relaxation mode you only need to listen to the tap recording.

  1.  With your eyes closed, lie on your back
  2. Feel and concentrate on your feet. Sense their weight and then consciously relax them and feel them sinking into the bed. Progress to your ankles
  3. Now concentrate on your knees. Feel their weight. Relax them and feel their weight sink into your bed
  4. Feel your abdomen and chest. Concentrate on your breathing. Concentrate on making them relax.  Breathe deeply and slowly. Feel the weight of your abdomen and feel them sinking into the bed.
  5. Move up to your buttocks and follow the steps from above with concentration and feeling the weight of your buttocks.
  6. Now move up to your hands. Follow the steps.
  7. Feel your upper arms.
  8. Feel your shoulders.
  9. Feel your neck.
  10. Finally feel your head and skull. Sense its weight and consciously relax it and feel yourself sink into the bed, your eyes heavy from your conscious relaxation.
  11. Concentrate now on your mouth and jaw, paying particular attention to your jaw muscles, unclench them. Follow the steps above to feel the weight and relaxation.
  12.  Feel your eyes. Try to sense if you are forcibly closing your eyes if so, relax your eyelids and feel the tension slide off your eyes.
  13. Feel your face and cheeks.
  14. Finally mentally scan your body and see if you sense any tension, if so, consciously relax that place and sink into the bed.

Deep breathing is similar to progressive relaxation and it is another great way to relax your body and get everything into synchronicity.

  1. Lie on your back.
  2. Relax your body slowly, using the progressive relaxation technique.
  3. Inhale slowly through your nose if possible. Fill the lower part of your chest first, then the middle and top part of your chest and lungs. Be sure to do this slowly, over 8 to 10 seconds.
  4. Hold your breath for a second or two.
  5. Quietly and easily relax and let the air out.
  6. Wait a few seconds and repeat this cycle.
  7. If you’re getting dizzy, you’re breathing too quickly, slow down.  
  8. It might be helpful to imagine yourself in a peaceful situation – somewhere that relaxes you – a beach, a dark, quiet room, etc. 
  9. Continue this breathing technique for as long as you like until you fall asleep.

 Guided Imagery is a technique in which you spend the time imagining yourself in a peaceful setting.

  1. Begin by lying on your back with your eyes closed.
  2. Visualize yourself in a favorite, peaceful place. The place may be on a beach with the waves lapping against the shore, relaxing in a hammock in your own backyard, or in a garden surrounded by birds and flowers. 
  3. See and feel your surroundings, concentrate on the peaceful sounds, smell the flowers, feel the warmth of the sun and any other sensations that you find. Relax and enjoy it.
  4. If you return to this place each night as you’re falling asleep it will be easier to fall asleep to this image. 
  5. If visualizing  peaceful place simply doesn’t work for you, try to think of something boring, a teacher, co-worker, a movie, a book. 

 Experiment with these techniques and perhaps try a combination of one or two of them. You might want to turn on some background “white noise” the sound of a fan or even a sound machine that plays rainfall, waterfall or gentle outdoor noises. The point of the exercise is to get you to a state of relaxation so that sleep comes easily to you.

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