Sample Relaxation Exercise

This is a sample exercise to help you relax and sleep. Read through this script a few times to get the idea, or you can record your voice (or someone else's voice that you find soothing) reciting this script slowly. You can also find many other relaxation and breathing exercises on CD and through podcasts available online.

Practice this exercise when you lay down to go to sleep at night, and also if you wake up during the night and have trouble falling back to sleep. This is especially helpful if you find your mind racing or preoccupied, which many people with insomnia do. The idea is to continue to redirect your attention to your breathing and your body any time you find yourself lost in thought. When you let thoughts go and simply keep your attention on your breathing, you are better able to welcome sleep.

Find a comfortable position in bed. Let yourself relax and start to notice your body and any sensations you feel. Feel the connection between your body and the surface you're lying on. Relax any tension and soften your muscles.

Focus your attention on your body. If your mind starts to wander to thoughts or worries, gently bring it back to your body. It's very common to become preoccupied while you're lying in bed—it takes time and practice to learn how to focus your attention on the body only.

Start to notice your breath and where you feel it in your body. You might feel it in your abdomen, your chest, or in your nostrils. Focus your attention on the full breath, from start to finish. If your mind is wandering, just notice that it has wandered and gently redirect it back to your breath.

Take a deep breath into your lower belly (not your chest) and feel your abdomen expand with air. Hold this for a few seconds and then release. Notice your belly rising and falling, and the air coming in and out a few times. Imagine the air filling up your abdomen, and then traveling out your airways, over and over.

Continue to do this for a few minutes, focusing your mind back to your body and the breath coming in and out. Any time a thought crosses your mind, release that thought and refocus on the breath. Feel yourself relaxing even more deeply.

(Practice this silently for a few minutes)

Do a scan of your body while you lay down, noticing anywhere you might feel tension in your body. Review the areas of your body, starting from the top of your head to your toes, relaxing the tension when you encounter it. As you do this, direct your breath into that area of your body to help you release that tension.

After you have scanned your body, return to the simple breathing pattern, continuing to notice your breath and picturing it flowing into and out of your belly...