The progressive muscle relaxation (PMR) before sleep

Better relax and fall asleep! Progressive muscle relaxation is a well-known relaxation method to relieve stress and tension. Learn 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 exercise sequence of the PMR
  6. Conclusion

    1. Relaxation before sleep

      Stress is omnipresent in today's society, but in the long run it not only damages our well-being and health, it also has a negative effect on our sleep. Persistent stress and lack of relaxation before bed can make it harder to fall asleep and stay asleep, leaving us with insufficient rest at night.

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

        2. What is progressive muscle relaxation?

          Progressive muscle relaxation or progressive muscle relaxation (PMR) is a special relaxation technique that aims to help alleviate 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 in the case of stress or anxiety could be related to high muscle tension and, conversely, relaxation of the muscles leads to relaxation and a feeling of calm.

          Jacobson then developed the special method of progressive, i.e. gradual, muscle relaxation as a method of calming down and coping with stress. Different muscle groups are tensed one after the other and relaxed again for a while. This transfers relaxation from muscle group to muscle group, followed by further relaxation processes throughout the body. Breathing also calms down, blood pressure and pulse rate drop and bowel activity is reduced. The procedure also has a positive effect on the nervous system and helps to improve one's own body awareness. In this way, stress-related tension can be relieved, psychological arousal subdued and chronic pain alleviated. This, in turn, allows us to better tune into the resting phase of the night and a restful sleep.

          But watch out: Depending on your state of health or mental state, muscle relaxation can also intensify negative feelings. If you feel pain, inner restlessness or discomfort, you should reduce the intensity of the tension, omit 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 flow
          • Calms blood pressure, heartbeat and breathing
          • Improves body feeling & body awareness
          • Promotes relaxation and sleep

          Possible effect on the soul/psyche

          • Reduces the sensation of stress and tension
          • Reduces sensitivity to stimuli and promotes serenity
          • Can lead to feelings of heaviness or lightness of the body and feelings of timelessness

            4. How does progressive muscle relaxation work?

              smartsleep Schlafmagazin Progressive Muskelentspannung im Liegen vor dem Schlaf

              PMR can be performed while sitting or lying down and should ideally be practiced regularly so that it works optimally and can also be used quickly in acute anxiety or stressful situations. In a course you can learn the sequence of the PMR yourself. There, the therapist or course leader reads out instructions. With a CD or video, you can listen to instructions and practice progressive muscle relaxation at home. 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 listen to an audio file of me reading this guide in our sleep sounds. Listen now🎧

                This is how it works

                Sit or lie down, relaxed and as comfortable as possible. Wear loose clothing, remove any interfering items like glasses or belts, and make sure you have enough freedom of movement. A comfortable room temperature and lighting and closing your eyes during the exercise can help you to draw attention completely inward and on your own perception.

                Instructions for reading

                Lie down or sit comfortably, rest your arms loosely beside 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 feeling.

                Arms - Now bring your attention to the right and left arm. Clench your hands into fists 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 calmly place them back next to your body.

                Face - Now tense your whole face. Frown, draw your eyebrows together and clench your jaw tightly (5 seconds tension). Now relax your face and try to relax every muscle completely. Notice how your forehead, cheeks, and jawline feel.

                Neck - Raise your head forward onto your chest and tighten 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 feel heavy on the ground or does it feel light?

                Shoulders - Now pull your shoulders up towards your ears and hold them there (5 seconds tension). Let your shoulders drop again, lay them down very loosely and let go of the tension completely.

                Abs - Now focus on your core, tighten your abs and tighten your abdomen and lumbar area (5 seconds of tension). Release the tension, feel into yourself. Feel your chest, stomach, belly relax again.

                Legs - Now tighten your glutes and hamstrings, buttocks together, stretch your length and stretch your feet and toes out (5 seconds of tension). Gently lower your legs back down and completely release the tension. Consciously perceive where your body is resting and feel how your lower legs, thighs and buttocks relax again, right down to your back. Breathe in deeply and exhale very slowly. Feel how the tension in your body slowly relaxes. Pay attention to your sensations, thoughts. How does it feel? Let your thoughts go, enjoy the relaxation and take in the moment within yourself.


                When you are ready, slowly return to this space, to the here and now. Move your hands and arms, bring some movement back into your legs and feel your body slowly activate. Open your eyes when you are ready and slowly sit back up.

                  6. Conclusion

                    • Progressive muscle relaxation or muscle relaxation is a simple method of relaxation to relieve mental stress, anxiety and tension and promotes relaxation and sleep.
                    • Progressive muscle relaxation involves tensing and relaxing different muscle groups in a targeted manner in order to promote deep relaxation in the body and mind.
                    • There are short and longer progressive muscle relaxation exercise sequences that can be practiced on a regular basis.

                    Greetings and see you soon!

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