Why You Should Do Stretches Before Bed Every Night

Stretching before bed might be just what you need to clear your mind and relax your body while improving your ability to drift off to sleep.

By Nicole Gleichmann

Meditation, essential oils, tea, and herbal supplements are often touted for their ability to help you coast into dreamland. Another activity that’s often overlooked that can help you fall asleep, and sleep soundly throughout the night, is stretching.

In a 2016 review, researchers concluded that tai chi and yoga, which both involve relaxed movements and stretches, can help to improve sleep quality. But even if you’ve never mastered yoga or tai chi, you can get similar sleep-enhancing results through simple stretches you can do at home.

How Stretches Before Bed Support Sleep

Stretching before bedtime is likely to enhance sleep quality and quantity through multiple pathways.

Slows Mental Activity

A racing mind is not one ready to slip into bed. When we try to fall asleep with too much on our minds, we can toss and turn for hours. By stretching in a calm setting, you remove outside distractions and bring your attention inwards, slowing your inner chatter.

Connects You to Your Breath

One great way to get the most from stretching before sleep is to connect with your body through deep, slow breathing. Deep breathing can help to relieve stress, setting your mind and body up for bedtime. Plus, when you breathe slowly, your muscles are more capable of relaxing, leading to a deeper stretch.

Relieves Aches and Pains

Many of us struggle to sleep well because our bodies hurt. Back pain, neck pain, and other forms of chronic pain can keep you up at night. Stretching routines, especially organized ones like yoga and tai chi, can help to improve your range of motion and decrease aches and pains over time. Less pain equals less distraction and better sleep.

The Best Pre-Bedtime Stretching Routine

While a regular yoga practice is the best way to enhance sleep for those looking for relief from chronic pain or sleep disorders, simply practicing yoga before bed can help to calm the body and mind. The National Sleep Foundation suggests the following three poses to help you get a good night’s sleep.

Man stretches muscles on the bed in the bedroom in the morning

1. Legs Up the Wall Pose

Legs up the wall pose is a great stretch for relaxation and lower back and neck pain. Position your yoga mat perpendicular to the wall. Lie on your back with your legs up the wall and your feet resting against the wall. You will likely need to scooch your booty forwards until it’s in contact with the wall or up to a few inches away, depending on what feels best.

Gently press your legs into the wall as you relax, trying to get your legs straight, but not forcing them if it’s uncomfortable. Stay there for at least 1 minute or up to 10 minutes. Keep your arms in a comfortable position by your side or on your chest.

People performing supine spinal twist, view from above

2. Spinal Twist

This position is a good spine and side hip opener. Lie on your back on a mat with the soles of your feet flat on the floor and knees bent gently facing the ceiling. Lightly move your hips about 3 inches to the right.

Next, take both your left leg and right leg together and push them to the left towards the floor with a 90-degree angle in your knees. Rest them so your outer left leg is touching (or nearly touching) the floor and your thighs are perpendicular to your body.

Stretch your right arm out to the right, perpendicular to your body, allowing your full shoulder blade to rest on the ground—even if this means that your legs lift slightly off the ground. Look to your right and very gently push your right knee towards the ground and to the left to encourage a deeper stretch.

Hold for 1 minute or longer and repeat on the other side.

3. Child’s Pose

If you’ve ever done yoga poses, you’re likely familiar with child’s pose. It’s a relaxed stretch where you come down to your knees on a mat and sit back onto your heels. You can choose to have your knees together or spread them far apart (as wide as a yoga mat, or anywhere in between), whatever feels best.

From there, bend at the waist, bring your head to the floor with your forehead resting on the mat, and extend your arms above your head or alongside your body. This is a great pose to wrap up your nighttime stretching routine.


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