3 Bedtime Stretches to Prep Your Mind and Body for Better Sleep

From sleeping with socks on to diffusing essential oils and even drinking boiled lettuce water (yes, this is a thing), you may have tried everything to help improve your sleep and yet nothing has worked. So, what’s the deal?

Well, considering the average person spends an average of 13 hours a day sitting in front of a computer, in the car, on the couch or at the dining table, it’s no surprise you feel restless and unable to relax by the time bedtime rolls around. Your muscles could be lacking the proper circulation needed to relax after a stressful day. 

This is where bedtime stretches come into play. According to head trainer at reformer Pilates studio Love Athletica, Abby Smith, stretching before bed is one of the best ways to release built-up tension so you can get quality snooze. 

“It not only relaxes you but it also keeps your muscles flexible so you're less likely to experience delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) the following day as you carry out normal daily activities,” Smith tells Bed Threads Journal. “Additionally, developing an evening stretching routine and even practicing purposeful breathing helps your body to enter a parasympathetic state (responsible for the body’s rest and digestion system) more quickly and stay in a deeper sleep for longer.” 

Studies have proven practices like yoga and stretching can be meditative, allowing you to focus on your body and present actions so you can switch off from the day’s stresses. Moreover, other studies have shown regular mindful stretching can even reduce signs of ageing. Sold? Here are three bedtime stretches Smith recommends you start doing tonight to prep your mind, body and soul for improved sleep and overall wellbeing. 

3 Bedtime Stretches for Better Sleep

1. Neck stretch - head tilts

Why: 

Wonderful for reducing tension in the head, neck and shoulders. 

How to do it:

Find a comfortable seated position, gently tilt your head to the right, lowering your right ear to your right shoulder. Simultaneously reach your right hand down while dropping your shoulder away from your ear. Try not to put too much pressure on the head but instead allow the natural weight of the hand to gently increase the stretch through the left side of your neck.

Hold for five breaths and if you feel comfortable enough, close your eyes. Gently bring the head back through before repeating on the other side.

2. Spinal twist laying on your back

Why:

A fantastic way to open up tight shoulders and to release tension in the lower back.

How to do it:

Lie flat on your back and wrap your arms around your knees/shins hugging them into the chest. Lower both knees to your left side. Keeping the shoulders on the ground, extend both arms out into a T as your torso twists. Try turning your head to the right for a full spinal column twist. 

Hold for five breaths and notice the body soften a little more with every exhale. Surrender. Slowly bring the knees back through the centre before repeating on the other side.

3. Child’s pose

Why:

A truly effective way to release tension in the neck and lower back.

How to do it:

Begin in a low kneel, kneeling on your shins with your knees shoulder-width apart and the big tows connected behind you. Take one big inhale to fill up the body and on the exhale fold forward, melting your heart down between the thighs, lengthening the spine, creating maximum space between the crown of the head and the tailbone.

Rest your forehead on the ground, with your arms either comfortably at your side or extended out in front of you, find what feels most comfortable for the shoulders. Allow the muscles in the face to feel soft, particularly relaxing the space between the eyebrows. Hold for ten breaths or more as needed.

Abby Smith is the head trainer at Melbourne-based Pilates studio Love Athletica. Follow Love Athletica on Instagram or check out their online classes here.

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