Relaxation Training for Insomnia

Status: Strong Research Support


In relaxation-based treatments, patients are taught formal exercises focused on reducing somatic tension (e.g., progressive muscle relaxation, autogenic training) or intrusive thoughts at bedtime (e.g., imagery training, meditation). Multiple weekly or biweekly sessions are typically required to adequately teach relaxation skills. Practice at home is also encouraged, so patients can gain mastery of the relaxation techniques. Although relaxation therapy is demonstrably effective, there is little evidence suggesting differential effectiveness across the range of relaxation modalities.

Key References (in reverse chronological order)

  • Morin, C., Bootzin, R., Buysse, D., Edinger, J., Espie, C., & Lichstein, K. (2006). Psychological and behavioral treatment of insomnia: Update of the recent evidence (1998-2004). Sleep, 29, 1398-1414.
  • Edinger, J.D., Wohlgemuth, W.K., Radtke, R.A., Marsh, G.R., & Quillian, R.E. (2001). Cognitive behavioral therapy for treatment of chronic primary insomnia: A randomized, controlled trial. Journal of the American Medical Association, 285,1856-1864.
  • Lichstein, K.L., Riedel, B.W., Wilson, N.M., Lester, K.W., & Aguillard, R.N (2001). Relaxation and sleep compression for late-life insomnia: a placebo controlled trial. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 69, 227-239.
  • Means, M.K., Lichstein, K.L., Epperson, M.T., & Johnson, C.T. (2000). Relaxation therapy for insomnia: nighttime and day time effects. Behavior Research and Therapy, 38, 665-678.
  • Morin, C.M., Hauri, P.J., Espie, C.A., Spielman, A.J., Buysse, D.J., & Bootzin, R.R. (1999). Nonpharmacologic treatment of chronic insomnia: An American Academy of Sleep Medicine review. Sleep, 22, 1134-1156.

Clinical Resources

  • Morin, C.M., & Espie, C. (2003). Insomnia: A clinical guide to assessment and treatment. New York: Kluwer Academic.
  • Lichstein, K.L. (2000). Relaxation. In Lichstein, K.L., & Morin, C.M. (Eds.), Treatment of late-life insomnia (pp. 185-206). London: Sage Publications.
  • Hauri, P., & Linde, S. (1996). Bedtime relaxation techniques. In Hauri, P., & Linde, S. (1996). No More Sleepless Nights (pp. 91-105). New York Press: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
  • Bernstein, D. A., & Borkovec, T. D. (1973). Progressive relaxation training. Champaign, IL: Research Press.

Training Opportunities

The Sleep Research Society Trainee Manual provides a variety of resources on training opportunities in basic clinical sleep research and sleep medicine. To access all trainee resources, click on ‘Show All Trainee Programs’ from the following link: