Simple Relaxation Techniques to Help You Sleep

Latest update: September 24, 2018

Author: Heidi Holvoet, PhD

Relaxing Sea View with Fishing Boats

Simple relaxation techniques are among the best sleep aid options. When baby sleeps, sleeping well yourself is the best cure.

Unfortunately, disrupted nights, worrying and life's demands may keep you awake, even if you're very tired. But insomnia is the last thing you need right now.

If you manage to be well rested, you will feel better and have more energy so let's see how to get there.

The simple relaxation techniques below are easy to do: they require no tools and no experience nor any spiritual inclination.

Try them in bed to help you fall asleep and throughout the day when you have a quiet moment.

Breathing and Meditating

Breathing in itself is a wonderful relaxation technique, and a basic but powerful meditation technique as well. Conscious breathing keeps your mind focused on healthy breathing, leaving your body relaxed.

Healthy breathing includes expanding both belly and chest. Many of us are used to breathing mainly through the chest. Using the belly too improves oxygen supply and helps your body relax overall.

1. Conscious Breathing Lie down comfortably and notice how you are breathing. When inhaling, lift both your belly and your chest. Make your exhaling long, blowing all the air out.

Take deep in-breaths too (not extremely long though), gently lifting belly and chest, hold your breath for a few counts, then make your out-breaths as long as you can. A good rate is 4-5-6: 4 counts to breathe in, 5 holding your breath and then 6 counts breathing out, longer if you can to push all the air out.

Think your muscles from time to time: especially shoulder and neck muscles tend to tighten up when you start focusing on breathing. Release them by letting them sink down into the mattress.

2. Counted Breathing If your attention easily drifts off while resting or trying to sleep, counting your breaths can be a great help. After a few sets of conscious breathing as above, let your breathing go back to normal, i.e. not making the breaths particularly long or deep or anything. Just allow your breaths to go to their natural rhythm, not worrying whether they're fast, shallow or where in the the body you feel them most. The only thing to do is observe your breaths: do this by counting each in- and exhalation: inhale-one, exhale-two, inhale-three, and so on.

Start over from 1 when you reach 10. If you drift off at ay point, simply return to counting, starting at 1.

3. Guided Meditation There is one huge difficultywhen doing these techniques - it can be SO hard to stay focused!

Our minds get so busy and so used to thinking and worrying, and it's amazing how difficult that makes it to do a seemingly simple exercises as counting breaths for just a few moments.

My own solution for that is a meditation app, with guided meditations i.e. a voice takes you through the steps and keeps your focused on your breaths etc. There are lots of meditation apps out there, my personal favorite is HeadSpace - I am not affiliated with them so I don't get paid to say this, it's just the only app I like and use.