Sleep — we all need it. It doesn’t take long for things to fall apart once you are deprived of it. Your immune system weakens, your mind is less alert, and your energy level drops dramatically. In fact, studies done on animals have shown that lack of sleep can have dire consequences. Rats have a normal life span of two to three years, but when deprived of sleep will live for only three to four weeks! Now here’s something to try if you’ve been having restless nights that keep you awake — it’s called “Progressive Muscle Relaxation,” or PMR. .
PMR is a drug-free technique that could help you relax muscles and put your body and mind in a better state to get a good night’s sleep. The technique involves two steps: first, you deliberately tense certain muscle groups; and then you relax, letting go of the tension, tuning your mind to how it feels to be in this “tension-less” state.
Feedback from clinical trials involving PMR has been very positive. In one study performed at the University of North Texas, researchers reviewed clinical trials for the psychological treatments of adult and child insomnia. They found that the adult psychological treatment with the best research support was PMR.
In another clinical trial, researchers investigated the effect of PMR training on sleep quality and fatigue in patients with cancer undergoing chemotherapy. The study sampling consisted of 27 individuals, of which 14 formed a PMR group and 13 formed a control group. The research team found that the PMR group experienced a greater increase in improved sleep quality and a greater decrease in fatigue than the control group.
We need sleep to rest our minds and restore our bodies. Sleep enables us to better fight off illness and to repair damaged cells. Our bodies usually require seven to nine hours of sleep a night to accomplish these tasks most effectively. Unfortunately, you may come to the point in your life where you find yourself sleeping for shorter periods of time and more lightly. Sounds and disturbances wake you up, as do complications with bladder control and other medical conditions. The average time seniors spend in a “deep sleep” decreases by 10% to 15% as they age.
If you’re not getting enough sleep, give PMR a try. Before you go to bed, get as many muscles as you can to relax. Take your time and let your body and your mind unwind and release all the pent-up tension accumulated throughout the day as you do the exercises.