A good night of sleep is priceless. Unfortunately, it is all too common to experience restlessness, poor sleep quality, or physical discomfort. Though there are many different ways to tackle sleep issues (everything from aromatherapy to guided meditation can be useful) …stretches should also be considered. Starting a before bedtime stretching routine can make it easier to fall asleep, stay asleep, and also ensure that your body is well-rested come morning. Sound appealing? All you need to do is add these five effective stretches to your evening.
Why Are Nighttime Stretches So Important?
You probably take time to stretch after a lengthy walk or intense workout, but most of us skip stretching before bed. This is a mistake! Taking a few minutes to stretch and relax transitions the body and mind from a busy and active day to a state of rest. After all, chances are you had a pretty full day. It may have included tasks like sitting at a desk, working in the garden, walking to the train station, or waiting for a friend to arrive for dinner. These experiences (sitting, being active, walking, and standing) take a toll on the body. Stretching before bed allows you to care for your body and can even reduce physical discomfort. In addition, stretching improves blood flow, relieves muscle tension, and reduces stress. This makes it easier to drift off.
Ready to add stretching to your daily routine? Try doing one or more of these nighttime stretches 15 to 30 minutes before you plan to go to sleep.
Stretch #1: Child’s Pose
There are many reasons to add Child’s Pose to your nightly stretching routine. This is a beginner yoga pose designed to relax both the body and mind. It gently stretches the thighs and hips – and also makes it easier to relax. Child’s Pose not only triggers a sense of relaxation and calm. It is known to aid in digestion and relieve tension on your lower back, chest, shoulders, and hamstrings. Clearly this is a powerful (and relaxing) pose…but how can you do it? Come down to your knees and sit back on your heels. Fold your body forward and extend both arms in front of you. Rest your forehead on the floor and slowly breathe in and out. While you should feel the stretch in your body…this pose should be comfortable. If it’s not, don’t extend the arms as far. Stay in this pose for a minute or two. Breathe deeply, enjoy the gentle stretch, and let your body relax. This pose is ultra effective and is an absolute must for nighttime.
Stretch #2: Gentle Neck Stretches
Does your neck feel stiff and sore? Have you been looking down at a cell phone for far too long? It is all too common for adults to experience stress, tension, and pain in their necks. That makes it especially important to take time for neck stretches at night (or throughout the day). Not only can this process relieve the tension and stress caused by daily activities, but it also means you will be less likely to wake up with a stiff or sore neck in the morning. There are several possible stretches for the neck that you can try before bed. Start small by moving your head right, center, left, center. Repeat this eight times. Then you can move your head up, center, down, center. Repeat this eight times as well. For a slightly more intense neck stretch, use your right hand to gently pull your head towards your right shoulder. Hold for 30 seconds. Then use your left hand to gently pull your head towards your left shoulder. Hold for 30 seconds. It won’t be long before all of that tension in your neck vanishes…and you are ready for a wonderful night of sleep.
Stretch #3: Knee to Chest Stretch
Is your lower back bothering you? If you feel like you still need to release some tension before bed…there is another stretch to consider. The Knee to Chest stretch is beneficial for the lower back as well as the hips and glutes. Release tension, ease discomfort, and prepare yourself for sleep with this easy yet effective nighttime stretch. Start by lying on the floor (or your bed) with your legs extended. Slowly bring your right knee up to the chest and hold it in place with both hands. You should feel the stretch right away. Hold here for 20 to 30 seconds and then do the same thing on the left. If this stretch feels too intense or uncomfortable, bend the opposite leg during the stretch instead of keeping the leg straight. This will provide added support to the pelvis. Whenever you feel tension or pain in the lower back and hips, be sure to do a few of these Knee to Chest stretches before you decide to lay down for a little shut eye.
Stretch #4: Cat-Cow Stretches
Whether you spent a lot of time walking or sitting during the day, there can be stiffness or discomfort by the time evening rolls around. Not to worry! The Cat-Cow stretch specifically targets the lower back. It relieves tension, improves blood circulation and can reduce stress levels. This is an extremely calming and relaxing stretch to add to your evening routine. While you may feel a little silly in the pose at first…the immediate relief it provides makes the stretch an absolute must. All you need to do is move onto your hands and knees. Keep your hands under your shoulders and your knees underneath your hips. Your back should be flat in this position. Now it is time to arch your back toward the ceiling (just like a cat) and tuck your head and tailbone into the body. Hold here for 5 to 10 seconds and then shift your tailbone upwards and stretch the neck upward (this is the cow position). Hold this pose for 5 to 10 seconds. Repeat the cat-cow stretches for as long as you feel necessary. Your back will thank you!
Stretch #5: Standing Quad Stretch
People who walk a lot or take part in physical activity will likely want to give their quads a good stretch before bed. Your quad muscles do an awful lot throughout the day and can become stiff, sore, and tired. Thankfully, it is possible relieve that muscle soreness with a good stretch! The Standing Quad stretch can ease that tension and increase long-term flexibility. It specifically targets the quads, which are the front of the thighs. Start in a standing position and then bend your right knee. Hold your ankle (or the back of your sock if you are not quite as flexible) behind you. Gently pull the ankle or foot towards your glutes and you will start to feel a stretch in the front of the thigh. Hold here for 20 to 30 seconds and repeat on the opposite side. If balance is an issue, use a chair or the wall to steady yourself while you stretch.
Say so long to soreness and stiffness at night…and when your alarm rings in the morning. These nighttime stretches are easy, effective, and can even help you sleep better.