When you’re stressed, or pensive, or just have a habit of holding your shoulders up/tensing up, your muscles may just learn to be tight – to hold that tension.
Do you ever find yourself lying in bed, feeling your thoughts flying around your brain?
Wishing it would stop so you could go to sleep?
- Try some breath work to ease out the tension – breath in deeply in to your stomach – focus on letting go of everything -
- First, do a quick body scan. Do you feel tight anywhere? Are you pulling your shoulders up, head up, or clenching your jaw?
- If you’re not sure, don’t worry that’s okay.
- Next: take a nice, slow deep breath in (try to count to four).
- As you exhale, let go of your head, your neck, your shoulders, and your face and jaw.
- You could also check hands, feet, and hips.
- Imagine you’re letting your whole body – especially head, neck and shoulders – sink into your pillow and mattress.
- Now, did you feel your head sink lower into the pillow? Did your shoulders drop?
- If you answer yes to any of these questions – you’re holding tension without realising it.
- And it’s probably not the first time; nor will it be the last.
- Check in with yourself a couple more times as you’re falling asleep. If you were holding the tension without realising it before, it’s likely a bit of an unconscious habit. You’ll probably find your body tenses up again when you’re not paying attention.
- By doing it a few times as you fall asleep, to start teaching your brain and body that holding that muscle tension isn’t necessary.
You should be doing this a few times a night if you notice you have tension, to try and re-teach your body how to hold it.
That said, don’t expect yourself to stop tensing up right away.
Accept that it will probably take a little while for you to re-train your body.
Why Does This Happen?
Usually, muscle tension is a habit.
If you’re tensing your muscles all day, you’re teaching your muscles that tensing up is normal.
- When you’re stressed, muscles tighten up as a reflex.
- Or, if you’re sitting at a desk and your head is forward of your body, or shoulders are rounded, your neck and shoulders tense up because they’re having to work harder than if you were in better alignment.
- If you can work on your breathing to reduce the stress you feel, and improve your posture while seated (if you’re sitting/at a computer/at a desk while you work), you’ll start teaching your muscles they don’t need to be tensing all the time.
- You might then find it easier to relax at night, and not wake up sore and stiff in the morning.
- Practice Yoga or meditation prior to climbing in to bed. Step away from the computer and tablets at least 2 to 3 hours before going to bed.
- Try to stop eating by 7pm – avoid snacking after that.
- Exercise during the day.
- Do not plug in a smart phone or a TV in the bedroom.