Health And Wellness

3 Simple Steps To Calm Your Mind & Relax For A Good Night’s Sleep

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3 Simple Steps To Relax For A Good Night’s Sleep

Getting good sleep when you have an active mind (or what I call, "monkey mind") isn’t so much about falling asleep — it is about relaxing.

Too often when we can’t sleep, we become anxious about not sleeping and hyper-focused on falling sleep. This isn’t helpful.

The human body doesn’t have an "on/off" or "awake/asleep" switch. Instead, we fall into a slumber through progressive relaxation or increasing fatigue.

So, to learn how to get a good night's sleep, you need to stop focusing on your inability to sleep, and try to relax.

RELATED: How To Fall Asleep Faster And Sleep Better All Night

It’s all about calming your mind and relaxing your way to sleep.

Falling asleep can be difficult at times. It can be a challenge to stay asleep through the whole night, or to fall back asleep once you've been awoken.

The truth is that falling asleep and getting a good night’s rest can be tough for anyone with a busy life and lots of responsibilities, or just someone who has a lot on their mind. That’s most of us, so you definitely aren't alone.

Negative effects of chronic sleep deprivation.

However, it’s important for you to do something about it if it becomes chronic. Inadequate and disrupted sleep is a real concern when it lasts over months or even years. It can provoke noticeable symptoms when experienced regularly even for a short period of time as little as one week.

A regular or chronic inability to get at least six — and preferably seven to eight hours — of sleep per night can result in a whole series of health issues, such as:

  • Psychosocial stress
  • Cognitive impairment
  • Poor decision making
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Alcohol abuse
  • Smoking
  • Obesity
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Increased mortality

You can start by eliminating behaviors that impede, disrupt, and reduce the quality of your sleep.

There are three practices that can be done while you’re lying in bed, making them ideal for both going to bed and falling back asleep if you’ve woken up. You can choose to try one or all of them.

Breathing can be easily practiced simultaneously with the other two practices. But, to get familiar with them, try them one-by-one, first.

Here are 3 steps to calming your mind so you can relax and fall asleep for a good night's sleep.

1. Breathing practice.

Take long, full breaths to promote relaxation. Take a few deep belly breaths (drawing the breath into the belly) and exhale through your mouth. Try to make your inhales and exhales last for four to six seconds.

Don’t push yourself too hard. If that’s too long, just do what feels right. You can continue the long, full breaths as long as you like, although you probably want to discontinue exhaling with your mouth open.

RELATED: 8 Ways To Get The Best Sleep Of Your Life (Plus 3 Things To Avoid At All Costs Before Bed)

2. Progressive muscle relaxation.

This technique uses a repetitive process of tightening a muscle group, holding for three seconds, releasing, and noticing a sensation of greater ease and relaxation.

Start at the feet. Curl and tighten your toes for three seconds and release. Notice your muscles relax. Feel the openness and space in your body.

Continue with the rest of your body:

  • Squeeze your legs (calves and thighs) for three seconds and release. Notice the change.
  • Squeeze your butt muscles for three seconds and release. Notice.
  • Squeeze in your torso (tummy and chest) for three seconds and release. Notice.
  • Squeeze your shoulders up toward your ears for three seconds and release. Notice.
  • Squeeze your upper arms into the side of your body for three seconds and release. Notice.
  • Squeeze or scrunch up your face for three seconds and release. Notice.
  • Notice that your whole body feels calmer and more at ease.

3. Visualization.

Pick a place that is calm, peaceful, safe, and soothing to you. Maybe it’s the beach with the waves gently breaking. Or, perhaps a gentle summer rain, a walk in a pine-scented woods, or quiet winter night with fresh snow on the ground.

Maybe it’s a comfortable room in your house, a hammock on the porch or lawn, your childhood home, or your favorite retreat spot. It can be anywhere — as long as it’s peaceful, comfortable, safe, and soothing.

Visualize it. See it in detail. Hear the sounds, smell the scents, feel the textures, and notice the air quality. Bathe in the visualization as long as you like. Notice the calm and peaceful feelings that come over you.

Guided meditations can help. 

It may not be easy to settle down and practice these suggested methods all by yourself. Guided meditations can also be very helpful as a way to familiarize yourself with the process involved in each practice. With repetition, you’ll be able to lead yourself through them fairly easily.

Meditations are designed to relax you and lull you to sleep. A soft voice guides you to take steps that will help you let go of your anxious or overactive mind and cultivate relaxation so you can finally have good sleep that you deserve.

RELATED: My Seriously Obnoxious Sleep Disorder Almost Ruined My Relationship

Patricia Bonnard, PhD, ACC is a certified International Coaching Federation (ICF) Leadership Coach and a certified Martha Beck Life Coach. For more information, visit her website.

This article was originally published at Reprinted with permission from the author.