Treating Insomnia Without Medications
Progressive Muscle Relaxation
The object of progressive muscle relaxation is to relax your mind and body by alternately tensing and relaxing muscle groups. In this exercise you will tense and relax muscle groups without straining. As you tense each group take a slow breath through your nose and exhale through your mouth. Even better if you can take the breath in while tensing the muscle group and release the breath as you relax the group. Try to tense each group for about 5 seconds and release and relax each group for 10 seconds. Try to feel the wave of relaxation over the muscles as you release the tension. Remember to keep breathing as described above throughout the exercise.
Find a comfortable and quiet place for lying down such as a couch, bed, or mat when practicing. Then when you feel you are adept at doing this try to move the exercise to the bedroom.
Try to keep your mind focused on the muscle group you are working on. If you notice it wandering try to bring it back to the muscle group you are working on.
Start off with 4 or 5 deep breaths as described above through your abdomen. As you breathe you should notice your abdomen rising as your lungs fill with air. As you exhale try to feel the tension leaving your body and a general feeling of relaxation.
Start off by progressively tensing the muscles in your feet by curling your toes for account of 5 as you breathe in then release the tension as you breathe out and pause for a count of 10.
Then repeat the process with your calves and thighs and then buttocks.
Now tighten the muscles of your abdomen you can do this by sucking in once again holding for a count of 5 and then relax for a count of 10.
You can then do your lower back by gently arching it for a count of 5 and release and relax for a count of 10. Remember to keep taking those nice gentle breaths while doing it. Again remembering to feel the tension released from the muscle as you exhale.
You can then proceed to your hands by making a fist. Then flex your biceps and then tighten your triceps by extending your arms out and locking your elbows. Don’t forget to breathe out and pause for a count of ten.
You can do your shoulders by lifting them as if to touch your ears remembering to hold for 5 and then release and relax for 10.
Tighten your chest by taking a deep breath in, hold for a count of 5 and exhale, releasing all the tension.
Work on your neck by gently pulling your head back as if you were looking at the ceiling.
Next to the muscles of your face. Smile widely, feeling your mouth and cheeks tense and then relax. Work on your forehead by arching your eyebrows as high as you can. Next you eye muscles by tightly shutting your eyelids for a count of 5 and relax for ten.
You may want to do it in this order, or you may end up choosing a different progression that works for you. You may do both extremities simultaneously, or you may find one side at a time works for you. Finally, you may even vary the counts somewhat as it suits you breathing and comfort. The idea of presenting this is not to be dogmatic. I fully realize some will vary the technique to suit themselves. The idea is for you to appreciate the basic technique of progressive muscle relaxation and utilize it to help you relax and fall asleep or return to sleep.