Skip to content
    Font Size
    A
    A
    A

    Progressive Muscle Relaxation for Stress and Insomnia

    Progressive muscle relaxation (PMR) is a deep relaxation technique that has been effectively used to control stress and anxiety, relieve insomnia, and reduce symptoms of certain types of chronic pain. Progressive muscle relaxation is based upon the simple practice of tensing, or tightening, one muscle group at a time followed by a relaxation phase with release of the tension. Doctors have used progressive muscle relaxation in combination with standard treatments for symptom relief in a number of conditions, including headaches, cancer pain, high blood pressure, and digestive disturbances.

    The technique of progressive muscle relaxation was described by Edmund Jacobson in the 1930s and is based upon his premise that mental calmness is a natural result of physical relaxation. Progressive muscle relaxation can be learned by nearly anyone and requires only 10 minutes to 20 minutes per day to practice.

    Recommended Related to Sleep Disorders

    Can Music Help Me Sleep?

    By Bob Barnett The Rumor: Music can help you sleep Most of us have nodded off to a relaxing tune before, but what if you purposefully listened to music when you went to bed? Could it help you sleep? The Verdict: Certain music may indeed help you catch better Z's “Yes, there is data that suggests that music can help people fall asleep,” says Michael Breus, Ph.D., upwave sleep expert and author of The Sleep Doctor's Diet Plan: Simple Rules for Losing Weight While You Sleep. But the kind of music...

    Read the Can Music Help Me Sleep? article > >

    Most practitioners recommend tensing and relaxing the muscle groups one at a time in a specific order, generally beginning with the lower extremities and ending with the face, abdomen, and chest. You can practice this technique seated or lying down, and you should try to practice with comfortable clothing on, and in a quiet place free of all distractions.

    Here is how it works;

    1. While inhaling, contract one muscle group (for example your upper thighs) for 5 seconds to 10 seconds, then exhale and suddenly release the tension in that muscle group.
    2. Give yourself 10 seconds to 20 seconds to relax, and then move on to the next muscle group (for example your buttocks).
    3. While releasing the tension, try to focus on the changes you feel when the muscle group is relaxed. Imagery may be helpful in conjunction with the release of tension, such as imagining that stressful feelings are flowing out of your body as you relax each muscle group.
    4. Gradually work your way up the body contracting and relaxing muscle groups.

    People who suffer from insomnia often report that practicing progressive muscle relaxation at night helps them fall asleep. Progressive muscle relaxation is also an excellent tool to help learn about the body and the signals it may bet telling you. With practice and time, you can learn to accurately identify and diminish the signs and signals of stress and tension in your body.

    WebMD Medical Reference

    Reviewed by William Blahd, MD on January 16, 2016

    Today on WebMD

    fatigued senior woman
    We’ve got 10 tips to show you how
    Man snoring in bed
    Know your myths from your facts.
     
    Young woman sleeping
    What do your dreams say about you?
    woman eith hangover
    It’s common, and really misunderstood.
     
    Young woman sleeping
    Quiz
    Cannot sleep
    Video
     
    child sitting in bed
    Article
    Woman with insomnia
    Quiz
     
    nurse sleeping
    ARTICLE
    Foods That Help Or Harm Your Sleep
    SLIDESHOW
     
    Insomnia 20 Tips For Better Sleep
    Slideshow
    Pain at Night
    ARTICLE