Using Relaxation Techniques to Help Treat Chronic Insomnia

Woman using yoga meditation practices.

Those with chronic insomnia may want to add a new strategy to help supplement their existing treatment. Evidence shows that relaxation techniques can be used to effectively treat chronic insomnia.

For many people, sleep disorders are related to stress. Relaxation techniques can cause a deep psychological shift to counteract the stress response that is often responsible for sleepless nights.

Mindfulness Meditation

Mindfulness meditation is a relaxation technique that focuses on breathing, calming the mind and being present in the moment. During mindfulness meditation, you don’t concern yourself with thoughts of the past or future. This helps break the typical thought pattern that involves regret and worry. Instead, you’re only focused on the breaths you’re taking in that moment.

It’s recommended to practice mindfulness for 20 minutes each day, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Sleep disturbances are more common in older adults, so the trial was conducted with two groups of middle-aged and older adults with documented sleep troubles. For six weeks, the individual groups met once a week for two hours. One group completed a mindfulness awareness program that taught meditation and other relaxation techniques. The other group completed a class that focused on sleep education. Participants from the mindfulness awareness group had less insomnia, fatigue and depression at the end of the study.

Finding What Works for You

Some people prefer to meditate while seated or lying down, but others practice mindfulness while doing another activity, such as tai chi or yoga. Another strategy is to use music-assisted relaxation or progressive relaxation to help ease nighttime anxiety. Relaxation techniques are sometimes combined with cognitive-behavioral therapy. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all strategy for treating insomnia, so work with your doctor to find the solution that works best for you.

Relaxation techniques are generally safe and side effects are rarely reported. If you have a serious underlying health problem, consult with a medical professional before using relaxation techniques as a treatment for insomnia. Also, remember that you shouldn’t discontinue any doctor-recommended treatment without first consulting your health care team.

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