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Stretching Before Bed: 6 Stretches to Do at Night Before Sleep

Ana Marie Schick Mar 16, 2023

Stretches for better sleep

Getting a great night’s sleep is paramount to feeling your best. And one of the ways to do that is to shut down both our bodies and minds. But sometimes, this can be near impossible, as winding down isn’t that simple for some. All the good intentions of a full night’s sleep slip away as the minutes pass by…

But sometimes, all you need to do to have a great night’s sleep is stretch.

Yes, stretch.

Stretching. It sounds so simple. And honestly, it is. The type of stretching that helps us to sleep better is far from strenuous. The last thing you should do before sleep is any sort of activity that will rev your body up instead of calming it down.

Top 6 Stretches

Give the following six stretches a try as part of your bedtime routine. They can help you relax, promote better sleep, and allow you to wake up feeling energized, preparing you for the day ahead.

  • The Neck Stretch
  • Cat Cow Pose
  • Standing Calf Stretch
  • Child’s Pose
  • Knee-to-Chest Stretch
  • Spinal Stretch

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Reasons to Stretch Before Bed

Sometimes, nothing feels better than a good stretch- especially before bed. Evidence suggests stretching may help improve insomnia symptoms and support a good night's rest. In fact, according to a 2018 study, stretching decreased tension, anxiety, and insomnia severity in people with chronic insomnia. [1]

Besides being beneficial for people with insomnia, stretching has been proven to help people who don’t suffer from insomnia fall asleep faster and avoid some sleep-related pain. [2]

And lastly, and by no means any less or more important, stretching feels good. So darn good! Since many of us spend most of our waking hours at a desk or sitting, our muscles are more likely to begin to get tight and stiff. Dedicating some time to simple bedtime stretches is a great remedy for all that stiffness!

Why is Stretching Before Bed Important?

If you are one of the many people who struggle with falling asleep, stretching may help you do so more quickly! Stretching is known to improve blood flow and relieve muscle tension. Improved blood flow and muscle relief is also known to aid in a person’s recovery time and sleep quality.

Stretching before bed literally allows your body to repair and rejuvenate itself more rapidly during sleep. The more you can get your body to wind down before sleep, the better your sleep will be, and the better your body will feel upon waking up.

Did You Know?

Engaging with your body through stretching can help you to shift your focus away from the anxieties of the day and onto your breath and body. As a result, you can become more mindful, which has been linked to improved sleep quality. [3]

Benefits of Stretching Before Bed

Stretching before bed can provide considerable benefits for your body and mind. It helps relax muscles, reduce stress and tension, and improve sleep quality. It can also help to reduce the risk of injury by improving flexibility and range of motion. Additionally, stretching before bedtime can help increase circulation and promote relaxation, leading to better overall health.

Release muscle tension Assists with lower back pain Improved flexibility Can help prevent injuries Improve overall sleep quality Promote circulation

Safety First! Getting Started

We have already pointed out that stretching is an amazing way to unwind and make your body happy at night (and let’s face it, at any time of day really!). Here are a few things to keep in mind when starting any stretching routine:

  1. Warm up first! Don’t go all into a stretch. Start off slowly, and work your way through stretches.
  2. Overstretching is a thing. Be mindful of how much you are stretching, and don’t overdo it! Stretching should feel good and not be painful.
  3. Breathing counts. Be aware of your breathing as you are stretching, and be careful not to hold your breath while in a pose
  4. Listen to your body. It knows best. If any stretch hurts, discontinue it.

Read More: The Effects of Stretching on Chronic Insomnia

Stretches to do Before Bed to Help You Sleep

To simplify things, since there are so many stretches available that are helpful, we have made a list of our top six favorite stretches to do before bed.

Stretching Study: Stretching, yoga, and meditation have improved sleep quality and were further linked to a better quality of life. [4]

Neck stretch can help get the kinks out of the neck

Neck Stretch

The Neck Stretch is a perfect stretch to help get the kinks out that build up naturally over the course of the day. This is a great one to do standing up, sitting down, or even while in bed!

  1. To begin, press your chin into your neck for 15-30 seconds.
  2. Gently and slowly raise your head back to your starting position.
  3. Repeat this stretch 3-5 times, holding the position for 5 to 10 seconds each time.

If this neck stretch feels comfortable, you can try two other types: ear-to-shoulder and side-to-side neck stretches. Both provide similar benefits leading to bedtime, including relieving excess tension and avoiding potential discomfort while sleeping.

Cat Cow Stretch helps with spine, neck, and shoulders

Cat Cow Pose

The Cat Cow stretch is ideal for stretching the spine, neck pain, and shoulders. It involves moving the spine from a rounded position (like a cat) to an arched position (like a cow).

  1. To get the most benefits from this stretch, we recommend that you do this on the ground or a flat surface.
  2. Keep your hands shoulder-width apart and put your knees directly below your hips.
  3. Begin to inhale deeply while curving your lower back and bringing your head up, making sure to tilt your pelvis up like a “cow.”
  4. Exhale deeply and bring your stomach in, arching your spine and bringing your head and pelvis down like a “cat.”
  5. Repeat 5-10 times.

Standing Calf Stretch

Give your achy legs a break! Not only can this stretch help improve ankle strength, but it can also help your lower body performance.

  1. Begin by standing facing a wall with your hands placed on the wall at about eye level.
  2. Place the leg you want to stretch about a full step behind your other leg.
  3. Keeping your back heel on the floor, bend your front knee until you feel a stretch in the back leg.
  4. Try to hold this stretch for 15 seconds, working up to 30 seconds over time.
  5. Repeat 3-5 times, each leg.

Stretch Tip: If you are struggling with plantar fasciitis or other foot issues, this exercise can help reduce pain by stretching your calves. Tight calves cause most cases of plantar fasciitis (PF)!

Child's pose helps with back, hip, thighs and ankles

Child’s Pose

Such a simple but beneficial stretch. This particular stretch is gentle and helps your back, hips, thighs, and ankles. Child’s pose is an excellent option for stress management as it draws awareness to your breath and relaxes your body.

  1. To begin, go on your hands and knees on the ground.
  2. Keep the tops of your feet on the floor (with your big toes touching).
  3. Lean slowly forward, keeping your buttocks on your heels, and begin to rest your forehead on the floor.
  4. Move your arms so they are next to your legs, with your palms facing up.
  5. Inhale and exhale, slowly and deeply, for at least ten breaths.

Knee to chest stretch opens up the spine and lower back

Knee-to-Chest Stretch

An amazing stretch to really open your lower back and spine, as well as your glutes and hamstrings.

  1. Lie on your back on a firm surface with the backs of your heels on the floor.
  2. Gently pull one knee up to your chest until you feel a stretch in your lower back.
  3. Bring the knee as close to your chest as comfortably as possible. You should only go as far as you don’t feel pain.
  4. Hold for 30 seconds.
  5. Repeat on the other side.

Spinal Stretch

Instantly release tension and pressure in your spine with this simple yet effective stretch.

  1. To begin, lie on your back and extend both arms out from your sides.
  2. Slowly cross your one leg over your other, and allow it to fall on the opposite side of your body, naturally towards the floor.
  3. For a deeper stretch, turn your head from left to right.
  4. Repeat this stretch on the other side.

Final Thought

In addition to our six favorite stretches before bed, we offer an assortment of other stretching and yoga content and meditation and breathing exercises on the website and through the sleepme app.

Citations/Resources

[1] D'Aurea, C. V. R., Poyares, D., Passos, G. S., Santana, M. G., Youngstedt, S. D., Souza, A. A., Bicudo, J., Tufik, S., & de Mello, M. T. (2019). Effects of resistance exercise training and stretching on chronic insomnia. Revista brasileira de psiquiatria (Sao Paulo, Brazil : 1999), 41(1), 51–57. View Study

[2] D'Aurea, C. V. R., Poyares, D., Passos, G. S., Santana, M. G., Youngstedt, S. D., Souza, A. A., Bicudo, J., Tufik, S., & de Mello, M. T. (2019). Effects of resistance exercise training and stretching on chronic insomnia. Revista brasileira de psiquiatria (Sao Paulo, Brazil : 1999), 41(1), 51–57. View Study

[3] Black, D. S., O'Reilly, G. A., Olmstead, R., Breen, E. C., & Irwin, M. R. (2015). Mindfulness meditation and improvement in sleep quality and daytime impairment among older adults with sleep disturbances: a randomized clinical trial. JAMA internal medicine, 175(4), 494–501. View Study

[4] Wang, F., Eun-Kyoung Lee, O., Feng, F., Vitiello, M. V., Wang, W., Benson, H., Fricchione, G. L., & Denninger, J. W. (2016). The effect of meditative movement on sleep quality: A systematic review. Sleep Medicine Reviews, 30, 43–52. View Study

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