Stretches and Exercises that Contribute to Better Sleep
November 19, 2021 · 5 min read
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Did you know that there are stretches and exercises that contribute to better sleep? When we hear of tips for unwinding before bed, we are often told to turn off electronic devices or take warm baths. And while these tips might work, research has shown that proper exercise and stretching routines can be a fast and effective way to improve the quality of your sleep by preventing muscle stiffness during your sleep and when you wake up.
Incorporating even just 10 minutes of gentle stretching into your bedtime routine can help you to relax your body and mind before you head to sleep.
Can stretching improve sleep?
Stretching before bed helps to relieve muscle tension, increase blood flow, and can prevent cramps during the night. For the best results, try beginning your stretching session 30 minutes before bedtime.
Here are some suggested stretches to try before bed:
1. Bear Hug
By the end of the day, our shoulders can feel incredibly tense. The bear hug stretch helps to alleviate shoulder blade discomfort or pain.
To do this stretch,
- Stand tall
- Wrap your arms around yourself like a hug
- Breathe deeply and draw your shoulders forward
- Hold this stretch for 30 seconds
- Release, and switch the positioning of your arms. If you started with your right on top, switch so that your left is on top.
2. Neck Stretches
We hold a lot of tension in our neck and shoulders during the day. Whether you’re hunched over a computer or sitting all day in an awful desk chair, it’s best to relieve some of that tension before you sleep to ensure a comfortable night’s rest.
To stretch your neck,
- Keep your face forward
- Tip your right ear toward your right shoulder
- Stretch your left arm towards the floor
- Gently guide your head towards your right shoulder with your right hand –– don’t pull too hard!
- Hold for 20 to 30 seconds
- Switch sides and repeat
3. Knee to Chest
For those who sit at a desk for countless hours a day, it’s likely that your back, hips, glutes, and shoulders may become very tight and tense over time if not stretched properly. The knee to chest pose can help open up these areas and alleviate any harsh tension before you sleep.
How to do the knee to chest pose:
- Lie on your back with your legs extended
- Bring your right knee up, pull it gently close to your chest and hold it
- Hold for 30 seconds
- Then switch sides and repeat 3 times for both your right and left
4. Quad stretch
The quads are a large muscle group on the front of your legs that get a lot of use throughout the day. When your quads feel tight or sore, you may experience discomfort, preventing you from falling asleep. A standing quad stretch is a great and simple way to stretch these muscles.
How to perform the standing quad stretch:
- Find a wall or chair to help you balance
- While standing, bend your right knee and hold your ankle or foot behind you with your right hand
- Gently pull your foot in towards your butt and you’ll feel a stretch at the front of your thigh
- Hold for 30 seconds then lower your leg
- Release and repeat three times on the right, then switch sides and repeat
5. Child’s Pose
Child’s pose is a common yoga pose that is great for relaxation, calming your breathing, and reducing stress — making it a great stretch before bedtime. It’s so relaxing, you may be tempted to fall asleep right there!
How to do a child’s pose:
- Get down on all fours and sit back on your heels
- Fold forward and allow your forehead to touch the ground or mattress
- Extend your arms forward to get a nice shoulder stretch
- Hold this pose for 5 minutes while breathing deeply
What exercises help you sleep better?
In our article How Better Sleep Leads to a Clearer Mind, we discuss how sleep is beneficial for the brain. Exercise can play a large part in how well we sleep throughout the night. Many articles that list proven tips to sleep better at night often mention exercise as a natural aid for those who struggle with insomnia. So, why is that? How does exercise help you sleep more soundly?
According to research done by John Hopkins Medicine, at least 30 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise daily increases the amount of slow-wave sleep –– otherwise known as deep sleep –– where your brain has the chance to rejuvenate. Exercise also helps the cognitive process of allowing your brain to decompress which allows you to fall asleep faster.
When it comes to what exercises help you sleep better, Charlene Gamaldo, M.D., medical director of Johns Hopkins Center for Sleep, encourages you to pick any aerobic exercise that you enjoy and will stick with, such as walking, biking, yoga, running, or swimming. You will see a difference in your sleep quality once you get into a routine.
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