Progressive Relaxation — A great way to induce sleep or reduce stress

Progressive relaxation is a technique used by many clinicians and individuals to help monitor muscle tension and learn how to relax and reduce stress.  It is has been found to be very effective in helping individuals increase their self-awareness and be able to reduce tension quickly in many settings, including those that induce stress.

Parents can utilize this with children in many ways, but practice is needed for it to be most effective. Using it at bedtime is a wonderful way of connecting with your child and helping to induce a calm, relaxing environment to encourage sleep and reduce anxiety or stress.

Start with a darkened room (a nightlight is fine) and if background noise is needed, use soft music or a sound machine. Have the child lay on their bed on their back with their eyes closed. Using the following script, have the child tighten the specific muscle group you are referring to for 10-20 seconds then release. Repeat if needed or move to the next muscle group.

Imagine you are laying on a nice warm patch of grass or a soft fluffy cloud. We are going to work on relaxing your body so you can be totally comfortable. First curl your toes tightly like you are trying to hide them. Hold that while you take a deep breath and then exhale and relax your toes. Next tighten your low leg like you are getting ready to jump. Hold that tight and take a breath, then relax. Squeeze your upper legs/thighs tight so they are hard as rocks. Hold….relax. Now pretend a puppy wants to sit on your stomach, tighten your stomach muscles so that the puppy doesn’t squish you! Hold it tight so the puppy can sit there for a minute….relax he jumped off. Imagine you have lemon in both of your hands. You need to squeeze it hard so you can feel it in your hands and arms. Get all of the juice out so you can make lemonade! Now drop the lemon and relax. Take another lemon and squeeze so you get enough juice. Do this one a bit harder so you can get out every last drop. Now taste the lemon juice. Pucker your lips and pinch your face because it is so sour. Now relax your face. Try another sip and pinch your face again…relax. That is better, someone added sugar! Finally, pull up your shoulders to your ears and hold tight. You are trying to hide your head….take a deep breath and let it out and relax. Now that your body is all relaxed, I want you to imagine you are nice and warm and like a blob of jelly. You are all relaxed and there is not a anything tense in your body.

There are many other scripts available online, so you can find something that works for your child. The goal is for your child to be able to run through this on their own anytime they are having trouble sleeping or feeling tense. For more information, visit

By: Teri McKean