During the night
How often have you found yourself lying in bed thinking: “If only I could relax, I’d be able to sleep”? Well, there has to be truth in that. A relaxed state, physically and mentally, is certainly a prerequisite for sleep, and we know that naturally relaxed people are usually better sleepers.
Relaxation at bedtime and in bed is crucial, but sleep is not something that can be forced because it is a process of “de-arousal” or “letting go”. Fortunately, learning to relax is a general skill and it is possible to learn to relax, even if you’re not very good at it just now. It can help in a number of circumstances to take a less anxious approach. Being able to relax is great preparation for sleep, but it’s also a great asset for the day–to–day life too.
First of all, you need to know what relaxation is. The human relaxation response involves both physiological and mental changes. Physiologically, relaxation is associated with deeper and slower breathing, a reduction in “muscle tone” (reduced tension) and a lowering of the heart rate. At the cognitive or mental level, relaxation involves detachment from the immediate external world, a focus on pleasant sensations or experiences, and a reduction of mental effort and anxiety.
Your first step in becoming more relaxed is to ask yourself whether you could benefit from improving your ability to relax – your natural “relaxation response”.
Learning to value relaxation
Do you think it’s important to relax? People who don’t value relaxation don’t spend time on it. They might say it’s important, but in their behavior, you would never know. Our lives can be full of shoulds, musts, and ought to, and we often don’t give ourselves permission to relax. We might even feel that we shouldn’t relax because there are “things that need to be done”. Does any of this sound familiar? If so, your challenge is learning a value system. We are not designed to be on the go 24 hours a day.
General ways to relax
Whereas people indeed relax in different ways, there are four essential types of relaxation response. There is the relaxation response that you get from active physical pursuits – “burning up” physical stress through activities such as exercise. Then there are active mental tasks such as playing chess to address mental stress. Then there is passive relaxation, which is more like “letting go”, for example physically by having a bath or mentally by listening to music. Of course, there is no hard and fast distinction between active and passive, or physical and mental, but good sleepers are better than poor sleepers at the passive approach to relaxation.
In conclusion to the above laying in bed under a clear starry night, sky ceiling mural has all the positiveness that has been proven to help relax and create a calming space enabling a deep relaxing sleep.