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Relaxing muscles and relieving tension for better sleep

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Muscles make up 40% of the total human body weight. There are more muscles in the body than bones: 206 bones versus 640 muscles. When you experience muscle tension or pain, it is very difficult for your mind to relax and fall asleep. The mind is able to relax and fall asleep only after the body relaxes, and the body is able to relax once the muscle tension subsides.

There are many causes of muscle tension, including: poor posture, strain from exertion, intense exercise without stretching, stress, pressure on muscles after long periods of sitting, pressure on muscles from sleeping (mattresses that do not support the body correctly). There are also many ways to correct muscle tension.

Start by improving your body posture whenever you are awake – as pointed out by some physical therapists, if you pull your chin in towards your chest, typically this corrects the rest of your body posture. Notice how difficult it is to sit or stand in a hunched over position if you pull your chin in towards your chest. Pulling your chin in towards your chest brings attention to your mind of the position of the rest of your body.

Second, try to gently stretch your muscles before and after physical work and exercise, and always do a gradual warm up and cool down in order to avoid muscle injury. Drink plenty of fluids with electrolytes if working (physical work) or exercising in hot weather, as perspiration will cause depletion of electrolytes and leave the muscles and body dehydrated.

Third, even though it is difficult to reduce stress from daily life, there are ways to deal with stress to try to handle it better so that it does not negatively impact your health. Try to do mindful meditation throughout the day, even if you only have a 5-minute break. Find someone quiet or put headphones on, and just have a few moments of peace and quiet, to relax your mind from stress for a few minutes. Also, doing gentle stretches at night, before bed, will help ease your mind into sleep by relaxing your muscles and body.

Fourth, try to get up and walk about 50 steps every hour during the day, whenever possible. Set a reminder alarm on your phone or computer and remind yourself to take a 2-3 minute break each hour. Walking to get some water, use the restroom, or standing up to do a few stretches will refresh your mind for your next hour of work. Take one of the hourly breaks and use it to close your eyes and give them a brief rest; putting headphones in and having a quiet moment will allow you to have a mindful meditation moment while you are giving your eyes a rest. It is also great to go outside and take a 5 or 10 minute walk some time during the day, particularly if you are having an afternoon lull in which you feel sleepy. A brisk walk with fresh air will help awaken you. Drinking a big glass of water also helps awaken you from an afternoon lull. Having a piece of fruit during your afternoon lull is much healthier than going for coffee, as the coffee might keep you awake at night.

Lastly, make sure that your mattress is providing the best support possible to enhance good quality sleep. If your muscles are not relaxed, you are more likely to suffer from insomnia. Experiencing insomnia then leads to fatigue and exhaustion the following day. The lack of good sleep, fatigue, and exhaustion then leads to overeating to try to stay awake and alert the following day, and possibly over consumption of caffeine. If not corrected, then the caffeine might lead to more insomnia that night, and it becomes a viscous cycle. Proper sleep is important to maintain body weight and particularly for losing weight.

Mattresses that do not support the body correctly lead to muscle soreness and tension throughout the night and the following day. You may feel that your shoulders, hips, back, and neck feel particularly uncomfortable from lying on your mattress. If your mattress is not supporting you well, then it can also cause spine misalignment. Your mattress is not just for supporting your body – it needs to provide pressure relief as well. This is important for good quality sleep at night and feeling energetic with relaxed muscles the following day. The mattresses need to support your body frame (skeletal bones), but it is also needs to be soft enough and built to provide pressure relief to your muscles and joints. For people lying on their side, the hips and shoulders are the two pressure spots that need the most relief. For people who lie on their backs, the shoulders and pelvic girdle have the most pressure. For people that lie on their stomachs, the knees and shoulders have the most pressure.

When testing out a potential new mattress, lying on your side is the best way to judge how much pressure relief the mattress provides. Rate each potential mattress on a scale of 0-5, with 5 being the highest pressure you feel on your hip and shoulders. Mattresses with a score of 5 do not provide enough support for pressure relief on your muscles. You want a mattress with a score of 0. Latex mattresses offer the most support for muscle pressure relief and thus the highest quality sleep.

However, if you already own a mattress that is somewhat new or you are not able to purchase a new mattress currently, then consider adding a mattress topper. Mattress toppers can also provide pressure relief for your muscles, depending upon how they are made and with which fibers they are composed. You can lie on your side on mattress toppers and rate them similarly to the mattresses for pressure relief (0-5). Best wishes for your pressure relief, muscle tension relief, and improved quality of sleep!

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