Can’t Go to Sleep?

Among my other medical conditions, I have high blood pressure. It’s probably because my arteries have become hardened and clogged from eating too much red meat and too many french fries over the years; however, I believe one of the contributing factors is the fact that I’m never relaxed when my blood pressure is being taken. No matter how calm and relaxed I may be when I first walk into a doctor’s examination room, as soon as the nurse starts to wheel that blood pressure stand over to where I’m sitting, I get tense. I just haven’t figured out yet how to relax when my blood pressure is being taken, or during certain other routine activities of everyday life.

I wish someone would take my blood pressure while I’m asleep. I think it would be much lower. Why? Because I think I’ve pretty much mastered the art of relaxing before falling asleep, which helps me fall asleep quickly and sleep relaxed and without waking up during the night. Want to learn how? Keep reading….

In Health Advice for 2012, two of Dr. George Calver’s 10 Commandments of Health are “Relax Completely” and “Sleep Sufficiently.” I think these two activities are very closely related. If you can’t relax when you go to bed at night, you’re going to have trouble going to sleep and you’re going to have trouble staying asleep.You may spend 8 hours sleeping off and on, but if you are stewing about something that happened during the day, or if you are stressed about something that’s going to happen tomorrow, you’ll get less effective rest than someone who sleeps relaxed for 5 uninterrupted hours.

Obviously, if you’re experiencing physical pain when you go to bed, the pain is going to make relaxation extremely difficult. So the following techniques may not work if you’re in pain; nevertheless, I think they’re worth a try.

My relaxation methodology consists of two steps. The first step — the first thing I do when I get in bed — is to take a deep breath and let it out. As I let the breath out, I let go of all the tension in my body at the same time. My body sinks deeper into the bed (in my case, a recliner chair) as I release all of the tension in every muscle.

Try this yourself. You will actually feel yourself sinking deeper into your mattress as you release the tension in your body.

The second step in my relaxation formula is to pray. Now if you’re rolling your eyes at the thought of talking to the air because you don’t believe in the existence of a personal creator-God who can actually read your thoughts and hear and answer your silent petitions, try meditation, or try putting on your headphones and listening to soft, soothing music on your iPod.

The key thing in this second step, however you choose to do it, is to relax your mind and get rid of the things that you are worrying about or fretting about or stressing over. If prayer doesn’t work for you, you’ve got to figure out a way to clear your mind of all worrisome and stressful thoughts. If you can’t do this, your body will go right back to being tense and you’ll have to start over and repeat step one.

When I pray after I’ve gone to bed and completed relaxation step one, I first ask God to help me relax and to help me fall asleep quickly and to cause me to sleep soundly through the night without waking up. I then thank God for the day and for as many things as I can think of to thank Him for. Often I fall asleep before I finish giving thanks to God in prayer. If I make it past giving thanks, I then begin praying about the things and/or people I’m worried about or that are causing stress in my life. I pray for calmness, for peace, for grace and patience — for whatever I feel is needed in my life or in the lives of others, depending on the situation.

Sometimes as I’m praying I’ll sense that I’m getting tense again. It’s back to step one whenever that happens. I’ll repeat step one as many times as necessary to keep my muscles and my body relaxed and free of all tension.

If you are worried about tomorrow or next week or next month, or about the future in general, remember the words of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount: “Therefore do not be anxious for tomorrow; for tomorrow will take care of itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:34)

If you have trouble relaxing your body and releasing your physical tension, try praying first, or try one of your other step two methods of relaxing your mind. If you decide to try listening to music, make sure the music is soft, relaxing, and soothing. Don’t listen to music with a strong beat, or music that makes you want to jump up and down and wave your arms. There’s nothing wrong with that kind of music per se, but it won’t help you relax your mind and go to sleep if it’s not helping you relax your body.

We encourage you to try these relaxation techniques for a week or two and let us know how they’re working for you. Do you have a different relaxation technique that works for you when you go to bed? Please share it with us in the comments. We’d love to hear from you!

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