A tense upper back. Tight hamstrings. A stiff neck. Some days can leave you with sore, tired muscles. But falling into bed without working out those kinks is not going to do your body any favors. Chances are, you’ll wake up the next day still feeling traces of those tense muscles – which will only get worse throughout the day. If this sounds like you, it’s time to start incorporating some all-over stretching into your bedtime routine. Let’s look at some of the best stretches to do before bed – and why they are an important way to improve your sleep quality.
Stretching and sleep
Studies have shown that stretching your body is a great stress reliever, according to Healthline. Gentle stretching can loosen and warm up tired, tense muscles. This makes you feel more relaxed. These feelings are also conducive to helping you get a better night’s sleep. There are a few reasons for this:
Think of bedtime stretching as a form of mindfulness. You are focusing on one part of your body at a time, releasing tension. You are paying attention to your breathing, and noting how your body feels as you massage different areas with your hands, a foam roller or other relaxation device.
It lessens the chances of getting muscle cramps at night that can interrupt your sleep. Studies have shown a link between getting good sleep and gentle stretching-based movements like yoga and tai chi. A good stretching regimen can mimic this.
Stretching is a form of stress relief that’s also been shown to improve mental health, according to the Sleep Foundation.
Even if you don’t feel tense, simple stretches can make you more ready for sleep.
Simple bedtime stretches. There are many different stretches you can do before getting into bed. Some focus on one area while others target the upper or lower body. Some people also prefer to do some simple yoga moves in place of stretching. The bottom line: Pick some stretches that feel good to you. Use a carpeted area or do them on a thick yoga mat for more comfort. Some of the more popular nighttime stretches include:
Neck stretches. These can be done sitting or standing. Gently bend your neck so your right ear is going toward your right shoulder. Hold for five seconds, then do the same on the other side. Repeat until you can feel any tension ease.
Bear hug. Standing tall and opening both arms wide, bring your arms into a self-hug. Your arms should cross the front of your body and your hands should reach around and extend to your shoulder blades, or as far as they can reach. Hold for five seconds and repeat a few times.
Shoulder stretch. Stand or sit comfortably. Raise your shoulders up toward your ears. Hold for three to five seconds. Roll your shoulders down and back. Repeat five times.
Lower back stretch. While lying on the floor on your back, use both hands to bring your left knee up to your chest. Hold that position for five seconds. Release that knee and straighten your leg. Repeat with your right knee. Do this five times for each leg.