a man practicing a meditative body scan in his bed

A Body Scan Meditation Method to Prepare Your Mind for Sleep

I learned a type of body scan meditation for chronic pain that I find particularly helpful for relaxation at night.

There are benefits for body scan meditation for sleep in its regular format. I find the method I learned is not only great for releasing the tension I hold because of pain but also for helping me relax when my restless legs syndrome (RLS) starts to jangle my nerves. After I do the meditation, I also might stretch my legs and feet a bit before bed.

Body scan meditation: the regular format

  1. Preferably, lie down in a comfortable position.
  2. Close your eyes and focus on your breathing. Notice the inhale and exhale of air out of your lungs through your nose. Or, if you prefer, the rise and fall of your stomach with each breath.
  3. Starting with your feet, focus on each body part as you breathe in and out.
  4. Be aware of any sensation in that area of your focus. Any pain, discomfort, temperature, or emotional reaction.
  5. Acknowledge any discomfort or emotion without criticism or judgement. Notice and let it pass.
  6. If your attention drifts just gently return it. This isn't wrong. It is normal for our minds to drift. The more we meditate the less it will. When it does, we just acknowledge it and just return it to our focus.
  7. As you breathe, imagine the pain, discomfort, and tension decreasing.
  8. Move on to the next body part.
  9. Continue to work up the body.
  10. Once you are done, visualize your body as a whole – liquid and relaxed. Breathing in and out with it for a bit.
  11. Slowly release your focus and open your eyes.

This format is very relaxing, and I find it does prep my body and mind for relaxation and sleep.

Body scan meditation: the chronic pain method

The method I learned at the pain clinic is similar to the method I outlined above. I do the method above at times, but other times I need to release a lot of the tension my body holds when it is in pain. To that end, the alterations made for someone with all-over body pain help me.

Instead of just focusing on each body part in the mediation process, you tense and hold that muscle group. And then release. Then imagine all the tension leaving that area, sometimes doing it more than once. You go through every muscle group in the body. I have to say, it feels extremely good when I am done. It is amazing how much tension a person can hold in the body without realizing it.

Restless legs syndrome and body scan meditation

I do this meditation to relax myself and my body before bed in the hopes that I can fall asleep faster. It does help me with pain and management to some extent. I know it preps my mind for bed, as it calms it down and makes it ready for sleep. Perhaps that helps with the RLS as well. I am not sure.

Getting my mind in the right mindset and not anxious or stressed about sleep itself or how severe the RLS will or will not be, helps me.

I tend to get to sleep faster these days. I just can’t actually stay asleep. Nor can I manage the RLS symptoms all night long, so a really fractured sleep is still a major issue for me.

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