Stretching before bed is an effective way to improve sleep and maintain good health. It’s crucial to keep the stretches simple and relaxing to avoid over-stimulating the body. Sleep is an essential aspect of health and wellbeing. Most people need at least seven or eight hours of sleep per night. Optimal sleep quality is just as important as the length of time in ensuring the body gets the restoration it needs. Performing certain stretches before bed will enhance the benefits of sleep.
Why You Should Stretch Before Bed
Fitness and sleep experts suggest stretching before bed relaxes the body and mind and releases toxins that can disrupt your sleep pattern. Stretching calms the nervous system by decreasing the fight or flight response our high-stress lives often provoke. Furthermore, stretching at night keeps muscles and ligaments flexible longer, which reduces the risk of injury.
Bear Hug Stretch
This stretch works on the muscles of the upper back, which can suffer the most from stress and highly physical jobs. Standing tall, open your arms wide while taking a deep breath. On the exhale, with your left arm above your right, wrap your arms around your shoulders as if hugging yourself. Take deep breaths while pulling your shoulders forward with your hands. Hold for thirty seconds then release. Repeat with the right arm on top of the left.
These simple stretches help release tension and toxins in the neck and upper shoulders and are especially helpful if you get frequent headaches. While standing or sitting, keep your back straight and put your left hand on top of your head. Let your head fall gently to the left so that your ear gets closer to your left shoulder, letting gravity do most of the work as opposed to pulling on your neck. Hold for ten seconds, then release and repeat on the other side.
A child’s pose is a yoga pose, so named because children naturally enjoy relaxing in this position. The pose relieves tension in the neck, the upper and lower back, and the hips. To do this stretch, come down on your hands and knees with your back straight and palms flat. Bring your hips down as if to sit on your heels. Keep your knees slightly apart while keeping your feet together. Focus on relaxing the upper and lower back. You can hold this pose for an extended period of time, even as long as five minutes.
Happy Baby Pose
The happy baby pose also comes from yoga, and again gets its name from children — specifically, the way babies tend to lie when on their backs. This pose is good for releasing tension in the spine, inner groin, and hips. Lying on your back, bring your knees and feet up in the air. With your knees bent and your feet flexed, grab onto the outer edges of your feet with your hands. Pull your hands down so that your knees get pulled towards the floor. Rocking back and forth can enhance the stretch of the position.
Low Lunge Stretch
This position releases toxins in the hips, thighs, groin, upper back, and chest. Come into a lunge position with your right leg bent forward, keeping your foot flat on the ground. Keep the back leg straightened behind you with the ball of the foot on the floor. Place your hands flat on the floor and bend the right knee until you feel a stretch in the groin. Keep the crown of the head stretching forward so you don’t hurt your neck. Hold for five breaths, then switch legs.
The butterfly stretch helps relax the lower back and neck. It also keeps the inner thigh and hip muscles limber and releases toxins. Sit on the floor with your knees bent and feet flat. Let the knees fall open to the sides, so your legs make a diamond shape. Holding your feet, bend forward at the hips bringing your face closer to your feet. This pose offers benefits regardless of whether you fold forward a couple of inches, or place your chin on your feet. Relax into the position, holding it for a couple of minutes.
Seated Forward Bend Stretch
The seated forward bend stretch is similar to the butterfly stretch except the legs are straight out in front. This pose is more challenging but is highly effective in releasing toxins in the back, legs, and hips. Start by sitting on the floor with your back straight. Keep the legs straight in front of you and flex the feet so that the toes are pointing upward. Slowly hinge at the hips, lowering your upper body down towards your knees. Again, it doesn’t matter whether you can only hold your thighs or shins, or can wrap your hands around your feet. Take care not to crane the neck, but to look straight ahead. Hold the pose for a couple of minutes while breathing deeply.
The legs-up-the-wall pose is a relaxing yoga posture that can improve sleep, reduce inflammation, and release toxins in the gut. The pose looks just like the name implies: lie down on your back with your seat near the wall, then guide the legs up the wall. Your arms can stretch out to the sides, overhead, or rest on your belly. You may choose to slightly bend the legs or keep them straight, and move the seat closer to or further away from the wall. You can also let the legs fall open for part of the pose. Stay resting in the position for about ten minutes, if you can.
Other Helpful Tips for Better Sleep
To ensure that you get the most out of stretching before bed, keep yourself properly hydrated. Also, try to reduce alcohol or caffeine consumption, which affects hydration. Before bed, keep the environment free from distractions if possible. Also, it’s best to do these stretches on an empty stomach. Stretching helps release toxins in the digestive tract, so having a full stomach may cause discomfort. If you have areas prone to injury, take caution not to do stretches that may aggravate them without first checking with a doctor or physical therapist. It’s important not to over-extend or bounce during stretches, as this may cause injury.