Relaxation Techniques For Sleep

Last updated on: September 15, 2017 By Ethan Green

infographic showing typical worries and anxieties people have at night that stop them relaxingDo you sometimes find yourself lying awake at night, with your mind overwhelmed by an endless stream of thoughts?

Do you tend to worry about the future, work, family, your relationship, health or finances?

And perhaps worst of all, do you then feel anxious about whether you’ll ever actually fall asleep with all that thinking going on?

In the busy modern world, sometimes we don’t get enough time to think about important matters during the day. So in the quiet of the night, it’s not unusual for your brain to make time to do some thinking.

As you probably already know though, too much thinking can lead to anxiety and stress, which can be a significant cause of sleeplessness.

So practicing relaxation techniques can be an effective way to unwind from a hectic day, calm your overactive mind and hopefully fall asleep quicker.

In this article, you’ll find step by step instructions and videos for some effective relaxation exercises. You can do them before you go to bed in a quiet space, or when you’re in bed to help you fall asleep.


1) Guided meditation

2) Progressive muscle relaxation

3) Deep breathing exercises

4) The 4-7-8 yoga breathing technique

5) Mindfulness

6) Readers’ relaxation tips

1) Guided meditation

Listening to a guided meditation is a great way to instantly dip into the relaxing world of meditation, without having to learn any theory. And it’s an effective way to take your mind off all your worries and focus on something else instead.

Personally, if I can’t sleep I often play one of the guided meditation videos below on my phone. I leave it playing on the bedside table, close my eyes and simply listen to the calming instructions. It usually works wonders.

If you have a relaxing bedtime routine, you might also find it an ideal activity to do during that time. Have a quick listen to the videos below to see if the styles suit you. If not, you can find many alternatives on Youtube, Spotify and specialist meditation websites.

Video 1

Video 2

2) Progressive muscle relaxation

Progressive muscle relaxation is a simple and practical technique which works well for several reasons:

  • Tension in the muscles can lead to tension in the mind.
  • Focusing on your takes your attention away from worrying thoughts.
  • By tensing and releasing your muscles you learn what a relaxed state feels like, giving you a goal to work towards when relaxing at night.

Like guided meditation you can do this exercise whenever you need to. Personally, I find it helpful to do once I’m in bed, and sometimes follow it with a meditation exercise if it’s taking me a while to unwind.

Step by step muscle relaxation

  • First take a minute to simply breathe slowly and deeply in a natural way.
  • Take a deep breath and tense your toes and feet for 3 to 4 seconds. Then exhale slowly and release the tension.
  • Take a deep breath and tighten your lower leg muscles, hold for a few seconds and then relax again with the exhale of breath.
  • Breathe in and tense your upper legs, hold and relax.
  • Breathe in and tense your abdomen and lower back, hold for a few seconds and then relax.
  • Repeat with your chest and upper back.
  • Repeat with your hands, lower arms, then upper arms, shoulders and neck.
  • Then you can tense your face, scrunching it up tightly.
  • Finally you can tense your whole body at once, hold for a few seconds and slowly exhale whilst ensuring your whole body let’s go of the tension.
  • Repeat the full body tensing 3 times.

If you find it helpful to be guided through this process, you can play the video below and follow the instructions.

3) Deep breathing exercises

Deep breathing is calming to do either on its own or along with other relaxation techniques for sleep. In fact, most meditations will encourage you to focus on your breathing at some point.

There are 2 main components to this style of breathing: learning to breathe into your abdomen rather than just the chest, and breathing at a controlled and slow rate.

It’s an effective relaxation technique for several reasons:

  • It relaxes your muscles.
  • It can help slow your heart rate down.
  • It can help slow down your breathing if anxiety is affecting it.
  • It takes your attention away from your busy mind.
  • You can continue doing it for as long as you like in bed.

Step by step deep breathing

a diagram showing deep breathing through the abdomen

  • You can do this exercise wherever you like – sitting in a chair, lying in bed or even standing up.
  • Take a minute to relax and try to mentally release tension from your muscles.
  • Close your eyes and focus your attention on your breathing.
  • Place one hand on your stomach and one on your chest. See if they both rise when you breathe in or just one of them rises. You don’t need to do anything in particular at this time. Just see which hand is rising and pay attention to it. This will tell you if you naturally breathe with your abdomen, chest or both.
  • Breathe in slowly through your nose for the count of 4 seconds. Try to breathe in such a way that the hand on your stomach rises, and the hand on your chest only rises a little. This is called abdominal breathing and what you should ideally try to do. You may find it tricky at first, but keep practicing and it will come in time.
  • Once you breathe in, hold your breath for 4 seconds, and then breathe out through your mouth for 4 seconds. If 4 seconds is too much or too little, you can adjust the time to suit you.
  • Continue breathing in this way for 5 minutes, counting 4 seconds as you breathe in, holding for 4 seconds and exhaling for 4 seconds every time.
  • Once you’ve learned how to breathe with your abdomen you can remove your hands and place them down by your sides when you do the exercise.
  • You can set yourself a goal to practice this deep breathing exercise for 5 or 10 minutes. But really, there’s no time limit. I sometimes just keep doing the exercise until I fall asleep or feel so sleepy that I know I’ll drift off soon enough.

Deep breathing video

If you’ve never practiced deep breathing before, the following video is a useful resource. It has a timer to help you get used to the timing of each step.

4) The 4-7-8 yoga breathing technique

In 2015 the internet was flooded with reports of a breathing technique which could make you fall asleep in under 1 minute. I don’t think that’s exactly true, at least not for everyone, but nonetheless it’s another good technique to try.

The method was pioneered by Dr Andrew Weil, who does warn that it takes a couple of months to master the technique, and you have to be careful how long you practice it for each time.

In the video below, Dr Weil explains how to do the breathing technique.

5) Mindfulness exercises

In recent years, mindfulness has become very popular, with many mental health professionals recommending it to patients. It’s a great self-help practice which you can learn and do at home.

It’s widely regarded as an effective way to treat stress, anxiety, depression, pain and importantly an overactive mind.

Mindfulness is based on certain Buddhist principles such as living in the moment and the acceptance of how things are. The good thing though is that the techniques are practical and work effectively without needing to attribute any spiritual meaning to them.

The techniques basically work by focusing your awareness in the moment. So if you’re lying awake at night worrying about the past or future, it can help you deal with that.

On a personal note, I became interested in mindfulness during a particularly difficult period of my life. Within just a week of practicing the techniques I started to cope much better with the stress and anxiety I was experiencing.

Needless to say I slept much better because of that. So from personal experience I recommend considering mindfulness if you suffer from anxiety, stress or depression.

Although many of the techniques are relatively simple, it’s really worthwhile learning some of the theory behind it. To find out more, you might like to read my longer article about mindfulness techniques.

6) Readers’ relaxation tips

Some of the most useful advice across this website has come from the readers. So I think it’s both useful and interesting to keep lists of advice, techniques and tips where relevant.

So below you’ll find ideas that previous readers have left in the comments regarding relaxation techniques for sleep, or in their daily life in general.

  • Sit up in bed, or get up, if you don’t fall asleep (if you don’t fall asleep within 30 minutes, it’s sometimes helpful to get up for 10 mins).
  • Do yoga.
  • Do stretching before bed.
  • Don’t watch horror films before bed.
  • If noise keeps you awake, don’t let it stress you out – find  away to stop it or reduce it (my article about reducing noise at night might help).

Over to you

Do you have any relaxation techniques you’ve tried in the past, that either have or haven’t worked? Would you like to share you story and what it is that keeps you awake at night?

I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!

112 CommentsLeave a comment

  • Hey Mr.Green! I am suffering from sleepless nights since 18 months. I read many articles and blogs and I feel your blog might help me. Starting today I am going to start practicing the techniques you have explained about. I’ll let you know if and to how much extent it helped me.
    Love from India.

    • Hi Noopur
      Thanks for your comment. I’m glad you found the article helpful. I hope the techniques bring you some peace, and it would be great to hear back from you again with news of how you got on.
      Warm wishes from England!

  • Thankyou for the ‘sleep ‘ breathing exercise , not had a full nights sleep since birth of first child 44 yrs ago.
    I’ve watched the video and have now started to relax before bed and also going to try yoga as a means to relax myself .
    I’m always so active at night my brain , it’s not that I have any worries but I’m quite a deep person and all the worlds problems seem to come into my head at night and yes I do care for our planet..and tomorrow.
    And no I don’t watch to much at all ..
    So really it comes down to me being a worrier..
    It’s 1.42am and this is about the time I go to bed ..

    • Hi Elle
      Thanks for your comment. That’s a very long time to go without a full night’s sleep. Have you ever had any professional help regarding that? I’m glad you found the article useful. I think breathing exercises are great to do in bed. I’m also a natural worrier and over-thinker, and when my brain is being particularly active, the breathing exercises usually work a treat. Sometimes I have to keep doing them for a while, but they inevitably take my focus away from my thoughts enough to be able to relax, and eventually sleep.

  • Hi I’m lola
    I’m 12 years old and I suffer really really bad anxiety it is something called air hunger I feel short of breath and that I need to take deep breaths to be able to breath this happens right before bed I have had an anxiety in the past about staying away from home soon as I got over that this came up I was worried about my health so my parents took me to a doctor he checked my oxygen levels and it was at 98 which is perfect and I had blood test and checked my lungs and my health and everything thing is perfect that’s when they told me I have anxiety called air hunger every time I go to bed I get it every night of my life I have really been afraid and I am continuously crying because I’m afraid to go to sleep its such a hard thing to go through at this age and I just want it to leave but it just wont go away it stops me from doing things In life and has ruined my childhood it makes me more aware of other problems which makes my anxiety worse the one thing I am asking is for you sir is to do research and try and help me I’m starting to feel it really bad please reply has soon as you can
    kind regards Lola

    • Hi Lola
      Thanks for your comment. Sorry to hear you’ve been struggling because of this. Can I ask you – even though the doctor found you were physically ok, did they recommend talking to a specialist – someone you can talk to and get help with dealing with your anxiety?

  • Hi There,
    I get tense about even small things (work related and personal) followed by anger and anxiety. It actually takes away a good amount of my sleep and will be there in my mind even if I get up between sleep. I am aware that minor tensions does not affect much, but still I am unable to resist as I overthink too much. Can you guide me what helps me to relax and have a peace of mind.

    • Hi Karthika
      Thanks for your comment. I think that mindfulness might be very helpful for you. It’s useful for relaxation at night and coping with all those stressful thoughts we have in bed, but also good to practice during the day. It’s known to help a lot with stress and anxiety. Have a look into it if you’re interested.

  • Hey,
    I have trouble falling asleep at night for a silly reason, but, oh God, it’s terrifying. My nightmares keep me up and I’m afraid to even close my eyes. I have algophobia which adds to my fear. i have no idea what to do. I’m up all night and exhausted the next day.

    • Hi there
      Thanks for your comment. Do you mean algophobia, which is a fear of pain, or achluophobia which is a fear of the dark? If it’s actually the second, you might find it helpful to read my article about the connection between fear of the dark and insomnia. I think perhaps you’d also benefit from the article I wrote about how to stop nightmares. And definitely do try to practice the techniques I discuss in this article – hopefully they will help you relax in bed.

        • Hi there
          You’re welcome. I hope they help, but if not, it might be a good idea to see if you can see a therapist to help with the phobia.

      • Agoraphobia is NOT a fear of the dark, it is a fear of leaving your home or safe place, like bedroom. I’m surprised such a mistake was made on your site.

        • Hi Kelly
          Thanks for pointing out the mistake in my previous comment, which I’ve now corrected. It must have been a long day when I wrote that comment as the article I linked to even refers to achluophobia! It’s good of you to take the time to point it out, and I apologize for it.

      • Thanks,
        I do mean algophobia, fear of pain. I am wondering if u know how to help it. My night terrors are getting worse, it used to b just a creepy thing but now in my dream I’ve murderd people. This is getting out of hand.

        • Hi again,
          I think that the most effective way to deal with any phobia is to get professional help in the form of a therapist. Someone who is training in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), for example, should be able to help you. You might find that both the fear of pain and the dreams are connected and so addressing the route cause through therapy might help both issues. Depending on your country, you might be able to ask your doctor for a referral through the health care system, or it may be a case of paying to see a specialist.

  • I have had trouble with sleeping lately. I lay awake at night thinking “what if i cant fall asleep”. When I start thinking about that I get worried and start to sweat. All of the worrying is bad for my sleep. I am only 12 years old and I am already having sleep related problems. It is midnight right now and i cant fall asleep. Any tips for worrying about sleep.

    • Hi there
      Thanks for your comment, and sorry to hear you’ve been having trouble sleeping. I think what you’ve been experiencing is actually a very common thing for people to have. I remember having similar thoughts when I was younger, and it used to drive me crazy trying to work out how to fall asleep. But as you’ve found out, the more you focus on that, the harder it can be to relax and sleep. So I have three suggestions for you:
      1. Talk to your family about it. Maybe they will have some ideas to help you deal with the stress in general.
      2. Check out this article about falling asleep, which I wrote in part to help people who get worked up because they don’t fall asleep quickly.
      3. Try doing the first breathing exercise in the article above. You might find it helps keep your mind of the worries.
      All the best

  • I have developed hypnic jerks when attempting to relax and go to sleep. Or if I wake up early and am lying in bed, same thing. Then anxiety kicks in and it becomes a cycle. Getting sleep study results next week but up to now nothing physically wrong is showing up after numerous tests. Question is how to go to sleep when as you fall asleep you suddenly jerk/ jolt awake numerous times?

    • Hi Vincent,
      Thanks for your comment. Have you seen my article about hypnic jerks? There are lots of ideas in there from readers, some of which have helped other readers a lot. If you haven’t already, I suggest taking a look and trying some of the suggestions there.
      All the best with the sleep study results!

  • Hey Ethan,

    I’m a pilot who has been having trouble sleeping. It’s usually only the night before I have to leave for a 4 day trip that I have trouble. I’ll try to go to bed early because I know I have to wake up early. My trouble is trying to get my brain to shut off. It seems that it just goes on and on for hours even after taking upwards of 15 mg of melatonin (any other night 5mg seems to do the trick) before I know it I only have 5 or less hours of sleep that I can get left and that’s when the anxiety kicks in that I might mess up the next day due to being tired. Now I start to get anxiety about “the night before” a trip because I feel it’s out of my control (falling asleep). I’ve tried different thought and breathing methods but so far I have not been able to find the one magical thing that works.

    Ive been trying to wake up early on my days off to try to establish a sleeping cycle but that doesn’t seem to make a difference for “the night before” either. Any help you have would be greatly appreciated.

    • Hi Michael
      Thanks for your comment. I can understand the frustration, and I’ve had the same problem on and off for years. Sometimes the worry about not getting enough sleep can be a real problem. I wrote an article a long time ago which you might find some helpful points in. It’s about falling asleep quickly and what to if you can’t. I’d also suggest having a look at the mindfulness article I mention. Even though I get specific about exercises, which may not seem new to you, some of the theory behind mindfulness might be useful, and help stop you worrying so much about the night before as it approaches, and when you’re in the night before, help you stop worrying about what might happen the next day if you don’t sleep.
      I hope that helps a little.

  • I’ve had a lot of issues lately sleeping and getting my mind to slow down, especially since I’ve gotten onto a routine of going to bed late. A lot of this stems from the fact that I have ADHD, so it’s already hard for me to just sit during the day and it feels like that’s carrying over when I try to sleep. It takes me a while to fall asleep and I have trouble just lying there for 20 minutes. Any tips on how to deal with this?

    • Hi Sophia
      Thanks for your comment. I can understand your difficulty in slowing your mind down and lying still enough to fall asleep. My suggestion would be firstly to try and stick to a bedtime routine which is regular if you can, getting up at the same time every day even if you don’t fall asleep until late. And when you’re in bed you could try the exercises I mentioned in the article. Maybe you will find one helps you more and you’re able to focus on longer, such as muscle relaxation or counting your breathing. If you do find yourself getting restless, don’t stress about it, just relax and bring your mind back to the exercise you were doing if you can. Try and keep doing it, even if you get distracted lots and keep having to come back to it. See if that works for you.

  • hi sir..I am 24 years old…during studying for my exams I was suffered with fear and worry..because I am unemployed fr a year nw…I am preparing fr exams…I think due to stress I got shoulder, neck pain for week..I also has depression and worries abt something will happen and if any body problem occurs I start to feel better to die. ..after a week of pain on both shoulders and neck and went to see neurologist. ..and ortho doctor..they scanned my neck and told nothing to worry…I explained to my neurologist that I fear to sleep because of depression and thinking negative things…he gave me anxiety and depression medicine for a month…after taking the medicine for 2 days my pain went away..after then one day I felt my leg jerking while trying to sleep and I became worried lot…now I when I thought about that I never slept on my back…whenever I lie on my back to sleep my leg jerks…I told my neurologist doctor he flashed light into my eyes and checked for twice and said I dnt have any physical problems…..nowadays I can only sleep when I am not on my back…I am worried I may have got brain tumuor or something. ..and worried lot about this jerks..

    • Hi Lokesh
      Thanks for your comment. I know sometimes it’s hard to stay calm when we have some physical difficulties, but it’s important to try not to think of the worst possible explanation when we have symptoms. In this case I think it’s unlikely you have a tumour, especially if your doctor has already cleared you. I think maybe ensure you don’t fall asleeo on your back, and try one or two of the tips in the article. Hopefully you’ll fimd that helps stop the jerking sensation.

  • Hi ethan,
    i think i have been suffering from hypnic jerks for over an year and i fear that it might increase someday. somehow i have started to deal with it but it’s scary and nobody else has them. after one sleepless night i developed anxiety and couldn’t sleep for full two days which further makes me anxious. i have no twitching all day.
    i am really scared that i will lose my mind and control on my mind.
    i am in desperate need of help.

    • Hi Paaki
      Thanks for your comment. I can see that you’re very worried about this, but it’s important not to allow the fear of sleep problems to itself cause sleep problems! I think it’s unlikely you will lose your mind because of hypnic jerks. I would have a look through the readers tips section if it continues to happen and see if anything there helps you to control them a bit.

  • Hi,

    I have problem while sleeping, i sleep for 7-8 hours daily but when i sleep my mind is active with constant dreams during sleep..

    Few months back i had anxiety problem, now it is reduced.. but i think in my subconscious the anxiety is still there… Every thing is fine, only while sleeping i am having continuous dreams…

    Could you please help me to how to get a good sleep without those continuous dreams.

    • Hi Mahesh
      Thanks for your comment. This is an interesting problem you’re talking about, and not one I’m sure how to help with if I’m honest. Dreaming is a normal part of our sleep, and it may be that you’re always waking up during the stage of sleep in which we dream most, the REM stage. Perhaps you could try adjusting your alarm to wake up 15 mins earlier or later than normal. And if that doesn’t work, try a different time like 30 mins. You may find that helps.

  • I am having great trouble getting into deep restful sleep. I am acting out my dreams which is causing concern for my wife. Most of the dreams are of me either physically defending myself or my family or friends. This causes me to strike out hitting my wife or kicking her.She has learnt to be aware and anticipate my reactions and grabs my hand or arm. Do you think your techniques could help me or is there maybe some other underlying cause for this type of problem.


  • Hello Ethan,

    I am desperate for help regarding my sudden insomnia. I have always been a great sleeper, although have dealt with an anxiety disorder since the age of 21 (i am 30 now). After a tremendous stressor, I found myself struggling to fall asleep one night, and I have been insomniac every night ever since. What keeps me awake is this crazy anxiety I have over sleep. I am looking for ways to keep my positivity and stop stressing so much but I honestly feel that every bad night makes me more pessimistic. It has been 7 weeks now and my stressor has been dealt with.

    Thank u so much,


    • Hi Maria
      Thanks for your comment. I can understand the anxiety – I’ve also had times when sleep has really stressed me out, and I know that it can get worse with every night you repeatedly don’t sleep well. I think that in your case, mindfulness could be a great option. It’s ideal for dealing with constant anxious thoughts and worries. Have a look at this article about mindfulness for a start. You can also look it up online or in your local bookshop if you want to get more details about it. I can’t recommend it enough as a technique for quietening an over-active mind.

  • Hi,
    I’m writing to you because I’m getting really desperate about my husband’s breathing noises at night,keeping me awake.
    I’ve tried to talk to him,use earplugs,paracetomols,sleep tablets and a whole list of things on myself and nothing works.

    • Hi Debbie
      Thanks for your comment, and sorry to hear about that. I’ll be writing a post soon after snoring, so check back in a few weeks too! Paracetamol won’t help with this situation unfortunately. And sleeping pills may or may not, but if you’re sensitive to noise then either he needs to try to get some help for the breathing and/or you could try some better earplugs for sleeping. Have a look at my list there as I’ve tried lots of different types. But if he is having breathing problems, resulting in the noise keeping you awake, then perhaps a trip to the doctor might help. You can also record the noise he makes to play to them to give them an idea of what is going on.

  • Hi Ethan
    I have been a insomniac for a vey long time probably 10 years but the last 5 till now are the worst due to serious health issues with my husband . I am currently on 5 mg melatonin it helped for a little time but now I’m back to staying awake all night ,I have tried a lot of the things you have suggested and I go to the gym 5 days a week doing hi intensity classes and still can’t sleep . I do take valiam and sleeping tablets in between when things start effecting me, my eyes are shut but my body is awake and I hear everything outside ,inside and even my neighbor going to his bathroom.
    I don’t know what to do anymore can you suggest anything new for me .

  • This might seem like I’m not being serious but this is a very serious question. My husband and I enjoy a very active sex life in the evenings after we put our kids to bed at night we usually end up having intercourse. I have terrible insomnia and I wonder if sometimes it might be too much stimulation for me before bed. He works long hours and it’s really the only time we can do it. So I guess I could try mornings but he gets up at 4 AM and I’m one of those ppl who NEEDS her 8 hours!!! So I fight with myself each night before bed. I feel like a healthy sex life is good for a couple in love with each other but so is sleep. Just what do you suggest?

  • Most of the time, I have no trouble falling asleep. But many nights I wake up 2-3 hrs later and have great trouble falling asleep again. Sometimes, not always, I take 1/2 Normison/Temtabs although I try not to do it too often as I notice after effects (lassitude, low-energy) the next day.If I don’t take anything, I often stay awake for quite a long time.
    I have dinner early, some 4-5 hrs before going to sleep and I am not on any drugs except for the occasional Paracetamol.
    Any suggestions?

    • Hi Johnny

      Thanks for your comment. It sounds like you could have what is called sleep maintenance insomnia. Have a look at that article I wrote about it, as there are some useful suggestions and concepts for dealing with it by seeing it in a different way. I’ve had the same problem for years off and on, and the information that led to me writing that article made a huge difference to how the middle of the night wakings affected me.

  • HI I have been having trouble sleeping for six months plus, I have anxiety and have tried listening to calming meditations in bed but nothing seems to work. I have been on amitriptyline 10mg for over a week now but still cant seem to sleep. I’m a night worker also. I find if I sleep at night on my days off I sleep a little more but if I cant sleep during the day when I get home it effects the sleep that night. really need some help if you can.

    • Hi Stuart

      Thanks for your comment, and sorry to hear you’ve been having these sleep problems. This is a very common problem for people who work shifts unfortunately. It’s even worse if you continually change your sleep pattern from night to day – it’s almost like keeping yourself in a state of jet-lag. Have you spoken to your doctor about perhaps trying melatonin? You might find it helps you to manage your body clock better.

  • Great article.

    For the past month or so I’ve developed a lot of anxiety.. I went through a breakup and it really hit me hard. I’m 21 and I’ve never experienced anxiety before and it’s really been bothering me, especially at night. I’ve been able to get over the break up and it’s not so much that I can’t get my mind off things to help me sleep it’s more that I’m really focused on my body. More so on my heart beat. I’ve been to the doctor to have my heart checked out and I’m healthy but when I lay in bed at night I can feel my heart beat, so much that it’s all I can think about and it makes me feel like there’s something wrong with me like my hearts beating harder than it needs to. When I breath in my heart beat increases and when I breath out it returns to normal so it’s like it’s fluctuating. But there’s nothing actually wrong with me. My doctor told me it’s normal for your heart to fluctuate when you breath and if it doesn’t that means there’s something wrong. I’ve never noticed it before though I don’t really know what made me so focused on it cus I’ve never felt my heart beat so much other than now. I’ve tried different sleeping positions and it never works. So it started out with the breakup causing my anxiety to me worrying that there’s something wrong with me physically. My doctor put me on anxiety medication to help me sleep at night but I don’t want to depend on that to help me do something that should come naturally and has come naturally for the past 21 years. There has been nights where I don’t need the medication but when I don’t take it there’s always thoughts in the back of my head that I’m not going to fall asleep. I’ve tried counting sheep at night because that’s something I’ve always heard to help fall asleep and sometimes it works I usually make it to around 400 and I start forgetting and repeating numbers but it doesn’t always work, also I’ve experienced the hypnic jerk a few times in the past couple weeks sometimes more than once in the night but I read an article on it just now and I found out it’s nothing to worry about because it started to worry me a little. But I’m going to try a few of these methods that you talked about I’m going to start off with the breathing method where you breath in for 4 seconds, hold for 4 and exhale for 4. That one interests me the most. I really appreciate you posting this article I always like reading what other people have to say. Not that I’m happy other people are having these problems because I wouldn’t wish anxiety, stress, sleepless nights, etc. on my worst enemy it really does suck and it makes you feel like you’re going to have these problems forever, but because it helps me in knowing that I’m not the only one having these problems. Because when I’m going through an anxiety or panic attack I feel like I’m the only one. So thank you again for this. Best wishes to you and everyone else for restful nights in the future. :)

    • Hi Hunter

      Thanks for your comment, for sharing your story and the compliments about the article. It’s always much appreciated when readers take the time to say they found an article helpful, and it’s great motivation to keep writing!

      I can very much empathize with your particular situation. I’ve both been through breakups in the past which have left me with anxiety, and been close to people who have experienced physical symptoms following difficult periods in their life. So I know how difficult it can be to cope when you suddenly develop the kind of bodily hyper-vigilance that you describe.

      I think that the breathing technique is a good choice for you, as it might help to distract your attention away from listening to your hear beat. And just a word on the counting – if you do decide to do that again, have you tried counting down from 1000 in 3s? That’s supposed to be a good technique because it requires just a little bit of focus to do it.

      I also think that mindfulness exercises might really help you. I’m a massive fan of mindfulness, and have found the principles and techniques it teaches you to have helped me through some very difficult periods in my life. In some ways it’s like taking that simple breathing exercise to a whole new level, and can have a profound effect on the amount you worry about things. Have a read of that article and see if it appeals to you.

      All the best


  • Thanks for such a nice article.

    I’ve had sleep issues since 2013 and it’s affected deeply my ability to function during the day. Used anti-depressant, Zanax, Valium for sleeping throughout 2 years, but its going on.
    Tried deep breathing couple of months ago along with face stretching, it helped. So two month ago stopped medication and just relaxation before bed. It worked and only couple of nights in this two month where i was not able to sleep or just fallen into a situation between awake and sleep condition. A few times found myself awake at middle of the night. I think its stress and anxiety which now have converted into depression as well.
    Today is the first time I’ve found that deep breathing needs to be through the abdomen.


    • Hi Nizaam
      Thank you for your comment and you compliment about the article. It’s great that you’ve been trying natural self-help techniques instead of the medication. I know it’s not easy to stop taking those kind of powerful medications, so well done for being brave enough to do so after so long of taking them.
      I think that if the breathing has been helping a little, then there is lots of hope that you can continue to do well with self-help like this. If you suffer from anxiety, stress and depression I can’t recommend trying the mindfulness path. It might be just the thing to really help you.
      All the best

  • I am really looking forward to trying these techniques. I have a new and highly stressful job and I keep waking up at 3 AM with restless dreams and not being able to get back to sleep. I have cut back on caffeine and alcohol and exercise regularly, but to no avail. Hope these help! :-)

    • Hi Elizabeth

      Well done for already taking action on the caffeine and alcohol. Hopefully these techniques will help you in addition. Sometimes it’s a case of putting lots of different things together in the fight against insomnia and stress. Let me know how you get on, and good luck with the new job.

  • I have insomnia for few months please help me.. What should I do I tried everything but until now it seems that sleepless night became my nightly routine.

    • Hi Marites,

      When you say you’ve tried everything, what do you mean exactly? Let me know and I’ll see if there is something you haven’t tried. And have you spoken to a doctor for advice, especially if it’s been going on for so long?

  • Hi great site thanks.

    I have had trouble sleeping recently, get to sleep okay often but wake up anytime between 12 and 3am and can’t get back to sleep. At 4.30am I hear planes and know that I will have to be up in a couple of hours.

    I also sense that my room and/or house is dusty and have read how dust mites can affect sleep. Do you ever find this? I don’t know how to be totally sure what the cause of my bad sleep is. Often when I do finally drop off, I have very vivid dreams from which I immediately wake up.

    I have started using my iPad before going to bed which I will cut out. Do you think light reading is a good idea? I will also try to get an alarm clock and turn my phone off.



    • Hi Jeremy,

      Thanks for your comment, and I’m glad you enjoyed the site. Regarding the first problem of waking up at 3am, you might find it helpful to read this article about waking up in the middle of the night.

      As for dust mites, well I can attest to that because I am allergic to them myself! I definitely found that my sleep improved once I became aware of this and ensured that my house is spotless, that I don’t have any kind of bed furniture which is fabric and hard to clean, and used anti-allergenic pillow cases.

      I do think light reading is a good idea. My personal bedtime routine involves reading a paper book in bed, and only turning off the light and going to sleep when I notice that my eyes are drooping and I can’t actually read any more. Even if it’s later that I’d like to fall asleep, I don’t even try until I reach that point, as it indicates to me that I’m definitely ready for sleep.

      All the best

  • I have trouble getting to sleep in part to stress, but always because I’m really sensitive to bass that my neighbours play EVERY NIGHT. It’s reached a point that calling noise control a few times every night is far too much of a hassle (especially since I don’t like being on the phone anyway) and I just want to sleep through it. It’s not even that loud really and sometimes I can sleep through it if I’m really tired, but most times I get caught up in the anxiety and frustration that the sound of the bass causes me that I’m too tense to sleep.

    • Hi Hayley,

      Thanks for your comment, and I can completely understand how difficult it is to sleep with noise. I have exactly the same problem! It’s also very natural that it makes you stressed, which then also stops you sleeping.
      So you have two options really. One is to work on the stress, and the other on the noise. Perhaps this article has given you some advice about keeping calm at night. For the noise issue, you could have a look at my article about blocking out noise at night.
      Hope that helps

  • I have trouble sleeping. I have so much going through my head. I have tried herbal tea and milk. Meditation works then later I wake up.
    I still wake up to the same thought each night. Started developing insomnia. Can I get advice on ways to relax and get my thought out so I can sleep?

    • Hi Madeleine,

      Thanks for your comment, and I can empathize with having problems sleeping because of a busy mind. If you always wake up in the middle of the night you might find it helpful to read this article about sleep maintenance insomnia. Whether it’s what you have or not is impossible to say, but there are some nice ideas there about how it may be something quite normal and a time of the night which you can use to your benefit.
      Otherwise, I personally find the best way to distract my mind is to do anything which focuses it on something physical instead. I like breathing exercises for that, as attention it takes to concentrate on your breathing is sometimes all it takes to get rid of the annoying thoughts.
      So even if you do wake up in the night, you can just lie quietly and focus on breathing in for four seconds, hold for a second or two, then breathe out for four.
      Try that and see if it helps!

  • I have been expreiencing plenty of sleepless nights because of horror movies… it may sound really stupid haha.
    I have been trying to engage in a regular night routine but nothing seems to work. Do you have any tips on making my room more comfortable?
    thank you

    • Hi Ashlee,

      Thanks for your comment. My first suggestion would be to stop watching horror films! In terms of comfort, there’s lots you can do. For example make sure you have the best bedding you are willing to afford. Keep the temperature down – 17-19 degrees Celsius is good. Keep some fresh air flowing if it’s not too cold. Keep the room de-cluttered. Don’t watch TV in bed or play games on the phone, Ipad or whatever you might have.
      After than you have a whole world of things like Feng-Shui or interior design you could look into! And of course, check out the other sections here about sleep hygiene.
      All the best

  • Breathing exercises rings a bell as I’ve been trying but not being able to center other than what I think about, though now I know to breathe into belly and HOLD IT.(at least for 3 or 4 sec.)…to focus mind a key thing then when I stretch every other day I may be able to concentrate more. I’m seriously out of shape well a lot of fat but also bloating – gastronomical difficulties are a problem- gluten intolerence. I’ll reconnect with you and let you know how it’s going! Thanks

    • Hi Leon
      Thanks for your comment and sharing your experience. Breathing exercises really are great, and I do them regularly at night. If nothing else they help to distract your mind when it’s in 5th gear!
      It would be great to hear from you again, and I wish you luck with the relaxation exercises.

  • When I get the hypnic jerk I see an evil face in my head and sometimes the bad ones is when my whole body pulses, feels tingly and 2 nights ago there was a really bad one and it made my heart beat faster for a whole day.

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