While there are many reasons that may prevent us from getting the good night’s sleep we long for, one of the most common of all is stress; we all experience different levels of stress throughout different phases of our lives, which can sometimes make falling asleep and staying asleep much difficult, and even create a vicious cycle: according to the American Psychological Association, adults who get fewer than 8 hours of sleep a night are more likely to report symptoms of stress.
Luckily, there are a few surprising ways to help you sleep. practicing relaxation techniques have been found to be useful in reducing stress levels and facilitating sleep. So how does it work?
Breathe Your Way to Calmness
Practicing breathing techniques every night before going to sleep can lead to a reduction in sleep onset latency, number of awakenings, and awakening time during sleep; deep and paced breathing leads to a physiological chain reaction that creates a cardiovascular ‘relaxation response’ (the physiological opposite of the stressful 'fight-or-flight response'); this effect is accompanied by a decrease in oxygen consumption, heart rate and blood pressure, as well as an increase in theta wave amplitude, all of which are known characteristics of sleep and deep meditation.
Individuals typically report that relaxation methods such as breathing techniques lead to a better sleep quality and also genuine rest, recovery from fatigue, and feeling more in control during stressful situations.
Breathing with counting can help take your mind off your everyday worries and thoughts which may prevent you from being able to feel relaxed and transition into a sleep mode.
The Power of Yoga
Yoga isn’t just beneficial for improving core strength and flexibility; it can also help you sleep better. The soothing, restorative practice of yoga reduces stress, relieves tension in the body and quiets the mind, serving as a natural sleep aid. People who perform yoga on a daily basis sleep longer, fall asleep faster, and return to sleep quicker if they wake up in the middle of the night. According to a study conducted by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) about the impact of long term yoga practice on sleep quality in the elderly, addition of regular yoga exercises in the daily routine of elderly people can help to achieve good sleep quality.
If you want to incorporate yoga into your bedtime routine, make sure you do the right kind! Some types of yoga can be energizing (like hot yoga and vigorous vinyasa flow), which won’t help you relax. Some restorative styles of yoga like Hatha and Nidra are also not recommended when trying to relax.
Practicing Progressive Muscle Relaxation
PMR (aka Jacobson's or deep muscle relaxation) is a well-established method to help reduce stress via physical relaxation. This method is based on the notion that mental calmness is a natural result of physical relaxation which can be achieved by tensing and then relaxing all of our muscles groups, one at a time.
Despite focusing on bodily relaxation, this method is also useful in calming down racing thoughts that hinder sleep. Along with deep breathing, this method is recommended by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) as a “standard” treatment for insomnia.
When PMR is practiced regularly, several benefits may be gained in addition to a better sleep, such as lower blood pressure, lower levels of anxiety and fatigue, less muscle tension and a greater sense of well-being. Some reports indicate that it may also alleviate headaches and digestive disturbances. You will need to practice this technique at least once or twice a day for about a week in order to master it (Word of caution - tensing the muscles can be uncomfortable for people suffering from chronic pain).
Relaxing Music for Better Sleep
Listening to soothing music in order to wind down before bed is a great relaxation technique. Slow tunes and even lullabies are ideal for this purpose. The positive effect this type of music has on sleep builds up over time as its sounds become a cue for your body to prepare for a shuteye.
Relaxing music has a direct effect on the parasympathetic nervous system, which helps your body to wind down and prepare for sleep. Additionally, slow music “tunes” your heartbeat towards the sleep zone. Music with a rhythm of about 60 to 80 beats per minute (BPM) is ideal to facilitate sleep. Lullabies are a great example of soothing music that can help to put you to sleep; you might be surprised to learn that they are not just for babies - they are also great for adults and are highly recommended as a relaxation technique!
The positive effect this music has on sleep may not happen overnight, rather it builds over time. When listening regularly to a relaxing soundtrack it becomes a habit that cues your body to prepare for a shuteye. Listening to relaxing music before or during bedtime can help you fall asleep faster and wake up less during the night, which in turn will help you feel better rested in the morning.
Asking yourself how to get better sleep? Check out Dayzz Sleep App variety of selected relaxation techniques to help you get into a state of mind that will promote more restful nights. From meditation to progressive muscle relaxation, choose what fits you best and embark on your journey towards better sleep. Ready? Start with getting a quick, personal sleep assessment!