Tuesday, February 19, 2013

PMR (How Progressive Muscle Relaxation Improves Your Sleep)

I was talking to a friend the other day about stress and how it affects us.

My friend was explaining how he has trouble falling sleeping. He can lay there for hours wide awake. His mind races, reviewing everything he didn't finish, what more he has to do. He can't seem to slow his brain down.

Most nights he just gives up by getting out of bed and finishing a few items on his to do list. Actually this nut bar gets dressed and goes to the office to check off a few items on his to do list.

Unfortunately this leaves him sleep deprived. There are been plenty of meetings where we have caught him dozing off. Which is a concern of course. We worry about his safety.

I explained to my friend that I sometimes have trouble falling asleep too. My mind gets stuck on replay. Thought are just buzzing around, I feel anxious and restless.

When this happens I have to just slow it down and r-e-l-a-x. I take a few deep cleansing breaths to slow my heart rate down. Then I begin to list off a few items I am grateful for. 

I am so very grateful for another day of life because it means I can spend more time with the people I love and care about. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

I am so very grateful for the roof above me and the bed below me because I don't want to get wet. Thank you, thank you, thank you. 

I go through my list slowly and explain why I am grateful for it. I drift off with happy thoughts floating in my head and I sleep like a baby. What ever that means.

If sleep is still avoiding me, I try to figure out if I am clenching any muscles like in my jaws or shoulders.

Recognizing Stressed Muscles

The fact is many people don't recognize their muscle tension and don't know how to relax. I know you are thinking that you do know how to relax, and you probably do but there are still many who don't know how to release their physical tension.

I learned to recognize muscle tension almost fifteen years ago. I took a course at my local gym. I thought I was taking a short course to learn how to protect myself if attacked out in the parking lot. Truth is I can't remember any of those tips. However, I do remember learning about Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR). I don't know how that is related to running and screaming for help. At least I learned something right.

What is PMR?

Well, basically it is squeezing and releasing isolated muscle groups. It teaches you to become aware of your tension, how to let it go, and how to recognize a truly relaxed state.

Give it a try. We'll start
 with your shoulders. Lift your shoulders up towards your ears. Tighten all those muscles. Tighter. Can you feel the tightness in your neck, chest, and back? Now count to ten. Exhale slowly and release. Just let it go. 

Try to remember how your shoulders felt before this exercise. Can you feel the difference between then and earlier? Now your shoulders are truly relaxed.

Put PMR into Practice

I think we should start with our right hand just to make sure we are doing this tighten and release right
  • Think about how your hand feels. 
  • Now clench your hand into a tight fist. Tighter. As tight as you can. Now how does your hand feel? What about your forearm? 
  • While clenching a fist, count to ten. 
  • Okay, quickly relax your hand. Let your hand go completely limp. 
  • As I exhale, I picture all the tension floating out of my hand into space and dissipating. 
Okay you are ready to try the exercise. You need to be in a comfortable position free of distraction. I prefer to lie down in bed so I can fall asleep right after. I close my eyes so I can concentrate on the muscle groups.

Once you are ready, let's begin.
  • Inhale deeply through your nose and slowly exhale.
  • Start by clenching your toes and pressing your heels down and back. Squeeze tightly for the count of ten and then release.
  • Now flex your feet in, pointing your toes up towards your head. Hold for the count of ten and then release.
  • Continue to work your way up your body on each muscle group; legs, bum, abdomen, back, arms hands, shoulders, neck and face. Tighten for the count of ten and release while exhaling. 
  • End your practice by taking a few more deep breaths.
  • Feel total relaxation in your whole body.

Let's Wrap It Up

Remember, PMR involves letting go of the tension in your body and brings you to a sense of relaxation. It is performed by tightening and relaxing your various muscle groups. By relieving the stress you have built up throughout your body, you are able to quiet and calm your mind.

And remember, like with anything else, practice makes perfect.

What do you do when you are having difficulty falling asleep?

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1 comment:

  1. When I was going to see a counseller through my family doctor she taught me how to do relax my muscles while laying in bed to help me fall asleep easier. She said to start with my toes and work my up to my head one body part at a time.

    I still use this bedtime exercise on nights when I really need help relaxing.


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