Progressive muscle relaxation (PMR) before sleep

Relax and fall asleep better! Progressive muscle relaxation is a well-known relaxation method to relieve stress and tension. You can find out how progressive muscle relaxation works and why it can help improve sleep here.

Table of Contents

  1. Relaxation before sleep
  2. What is progressive muscle relaxation?
  3. Positive effects of progressive muscle relaxation
  4. How does progressive muscle relaxation work?
  5. Instructions for a short sequence of PMR exercises
  6. Conclusion

    1. Relaxation before sleep

      Stress is omnipresent in today's society, but in the long term it not only harms our well-being and health, but also has a negative impact on our sleep. Persistent stress and a lack of relaxation before going to bed can make it difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep, meaning we don't get enough rest at night.

      It is therefore very important that our body and mind wind down in the evening and find sufficient relaxation .

        2. What is progressive muscle relaxation?

          Progressive muscle relaxation or progressive muscle relaxation (PMR) is a special relaxation procedure that is intended to help relieve physical and mental stress by specifically tensing and relaxing the muscles. The relaxation technique was developed by the American doctor Edmund Jacobson. He discovered that the mental state of stress or anxiety could be linked to high muscle tension and, conversely, loosening the muscles leads to relaxation and a feeling of calm.

          Jacobson then developed the special method of progressive, i.e. sectional, muscle relaxation as a method for calming down and managing stress. Different muscle groups are specifically tensed one after the other and then relaxed again for a while. This transfers the relaxation from muscle group to muscle group, which is followed by further relaxation processes throughout the body. Breathing calms down, blood pressure and pulse rate decrease and intestinal activity is reduced. The procedure also has a positive effect on the nervous system and helps to improve your body awareness. In this way, stress-related tension can be released, psychological excitement can be dampened and chronic pain can be alleviated. This in turn allows us to better prepare ourselves for the rest phase at night and a peaceful sleep.

          But be careful: Depending on your health or mental state, muscle relaxation can also increase negative feelings. If you feel pain, inner restlessness or discomfort, you should reduce the intensity of tension, avoid painful parts of the body or stop the exercise. Pay attention to your own feelings here and otherwise please seek advice from a therapist or doctor.

          3. Positive effects of progressive muscle relaxation

          Possible effect on the body

          • Relieves muscular and nervous tension
          • Improves blood circulation
          • Calms blood pressure, heart rate and breathing
          • Improves body feeling and body perception
          • Promotes relaxation and sleep

          Possible effect on the soul/psyche

          • Reduces the feeling of stress and tension
          • Reduces sensitivity to stimuli and promotes calmness
          • Can lead to feelings of heaviness or lightness in the body and feelings of timelessness

            4. How does progressive muscle relaxation work?

              smartsleep Schlafmagazin Progressive Muskelentspannung im Liegen vor dem Schlaf

              The PMR can be carried out while sitting or lying down and should ideally be practiced regularly so that it works optimally and can be used quickly even in acute anxiety or stressful situations. You can learn the PMR sequence yourself in a course. There the therapist or course leader reads out instructions. With a CD or video you can also listen to instructions at home and train progressive muscle relaxation. There are shorter and longer exercise sequences that last up to 30 minutes.

                5. Instructions for a short exercise sequence in the PMR

                Our example instructions are a short exercise that can be tried out quickly and easily in everyday life. You can find an audio file to listen to in which I read these instructions in our sleep sounds. Listen now 🎧

                Here's how it works

                Sit or lie down in a relaxed position and assume a position that is as comfortable as possible. Wear loose clothing, remove any distracting items such as glasses or belts, and make sure you have enough room to move around. A comfortable room temperature and lighting and closing your eyes during the exercise can help you focus your attention fully inward and on your own awareness.

                Instructions for reading aloud

                Lie or sit down comfortably, rest your arms loosely next to your body or place your hands on your thighs. Close your eyes and prepare yourself to relax. Feel the solid ground beneath you and concentrate entirely on yourself and the feeling.

                Arms – Now direct your attention to the right and left arms. Clench your hands into a fist and bend your arm. Now tense your hands, your forearms and your upper arms tightly. Pay attention to the tension and feel the strength of your muscles (5 seconds of tension). Now relax your arms, open your hands and place them quietly next to your body again.

                Face – Now tense your entire face. Frown your forehead, draw your eyebrows together tightly and also tense your jaw tightly (5 seconds of tension). Now relax your face and try to completely relax every muscle. Notice how your forehead, cheeks, and jaw feel.

                Neck – Lift your head forward onto your chest and tense your neck muscles (5 seconds of tension). Slowly let your head fall back and notice how your neck relaxes. How does it feel? Does your head rest heavily on the floor or does it feel very light?

                Shoulders – Now pull your shoulders far up towards your ears and hold them there (5 seconds of tension). Let your shoulders sink again, rest them very loosely and let go of the tension completely.

                Abdomen - Now concentrate on the center of your body, tighten your abdominal muscles and ensure tension in the stomach and lumbar area (5 seconds of tension). Release the tension, feel within yourself. Feel your chest, your stomach, your stomach relax again.

                Legs – Now tense your glutes and thigh muscles, pull your butt together, stretch yourself completely and stretch your feet and toes out wide (5 seconds of tension). Gently put your legs back down and let go of the tension completely. Be consciously aware of where your body is resting and feel how your lower legs, thighs and buttocks relax again into your back. Breathe in deeply and exhale very slowly. Feel how the tension in your body slowly disappears. Pay attention to your feelings, thoughts. How does it feel? Let your thoughts wander, enjoy the relaxation and take in the moment within yourself.


                When you are ready, slowly return to this space, to the now and here. Move your hands and arms, bringing some movement back into your legs and feeling your body slowly activate. When you are ready, open your eyes and slowly stand back up.

                  6. Conclusion

                    • Progressive muscle relaxation or muscle relaxation is a simple relaxation method against mental stress, anxiety and tension and promotes relaxation and falling asleep.
                    • With progressive muscle relaxation, different muscle groups are selectively tensed and relaxed one after the other in order to promote deep relaxation in the body and mind.
                    • There are short and longer exercise sequences of progressive muscle relaxation that can be practiced regularly.

                    Greetings and see you soon!

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