Relaxation exercises are a great way to clear your mind, relax your body, and get ready for sleep. You can reduce your stress by doing them during the day, but they can be helpful as you are getting ready to fall asleep or if you wake up in the middle of the night.

These exercises use abdominal breathing techniques for a few seconds or a few minutes to relax your muscles and clear your mind. Turning down the lights and finding a comfortable position during these activities will help you become sleepy.  You can do them with your eyes open or closed.

Neck and shoulder release.

Take a deep breath and focus on your head, neck, and shoulders. Hold your breath and then breathe out slowly. Breathe in again and slowly raise your shoulders toward your ears. As you breathe out, imagine all the tension in your neck, shoulders, and back leaving through your breath. Allow your shoulders to drop slightly as you exhale. Repeat.

Breathing to a count.

Inhale to the count of 6, taking a slow, deep breath.  Hold your breath for a moment and then breathe out slowly while you count to 6. Repeat. Breathe in and out through your nose.

Cleansing breath.

Inhale slowly through your nose to the count of 6, exhale through your mouth, and as you exhale, blow as if you are slowly blowing out a candle, so it flickers but doesn’t go out. Repeat. Then inhale slowly through your nose to a count of 6 and exhale through your mouth, strongly blowing out the imaginary candle. Blow out as much held tension as you can.

Tense, hold, release.

Breathe in and tense all the muscles you can at once.  Hold your breath, then slowly breathe out, letting all the tension go. Repeat this several times. This exercise is not recommended for patients with fibromyalgia or other chronic musculoskeletal pain.

Relaxing sigh.

Sit or stand up straight. Breathe in and hold your breath. Exhale, sigh deeply, and make an exaggerated “Ahhhhh” sound. Repeat this 10 times.

For more information and tools please take a look at the following resources:

Guided Mediation for Deep Sleep- Audio
Progressive Muscle Relaxation- Audio
Guided Mediation for Natural Healing Sleep & Bedtime Relaxation- Audio
CALM – Phone app for sleep and mediation
Sleepio – Phone app for sleep and mediation