Why Should We Stretch Before Sleeping?
Thanks to largely the modern technology, our lives these days have become where we are sitting most of our waking time. We are either on our phones, working on our laptops of PCs or just simply watching television browsing the internet while lying down and munching some snacks.
The not so surprising result of our “sitting” life is when we finally go to sleep, we are not able to relax; and feel restless resulting in disturbed sleep.(1, 2, 3) Our muscles need to have good activity and exercise for proper blood circulation. When we are sitting slouched up in front of our computer the whole day, this leads to stiff and aching muscles that need to stretch and relax so you can sleep well at the end of the day.
Stretching before going to sleep is considered a best method to loosen the taut muscles and to release the accumulated tension to help you get a restful sleep during the night (3, 4, 5, 6). Most of us know the importance of stretching pre- and post workout, but many do not know how beneficial it is to stretch before going to bed also.
The Unknown Benefits of Stretching Before Going to Bed
Nighttime stretching exercises are beneficial both for our mind and body. A nighttime stretching routine helps our body to move into a relaxed state quickly and also aids in deeper sleep. By stretching your muscles, the ache all over the body; especially in the neck, shoulders and back decreases, which in turn will relax you and help you sleep quickly.(7) Nighttime stretching exercises not only help you to sleep better, but by preventing your tossing and turning, also helps with your partner’s sleep too!
Instead of scrolling mindlessly on your phone or social media, make nighttime stretching a habit. According to studies, nighttime stretching exercises, when done properly, helps in calming your mind and body. Practicing mindful stretching regularly also helps in reducing the signs of aging by reducing stress.(12)
Now enough about the benefits of nighttime stretching exercises; let’s now talk about some of the best nighttime stretching exercises:
8 Best Nighttime Stretching Exercises
The Side Stretch(10)
Sit down on the mat with your legs crossed or sit on your heels and lift your right arm over your head. Keep your left arm on the floor and tilt your body towards the left while keeping the right arm above the ear. You can feel a stretch on the right side. Repeat the same side stretch on the other side.
Benefits: The Side Stretch lengthens your obliques and spine; and makes your spine and core strong.
The Knee to Chest Stretch
Lie down on your back, then lift and flex one leg. Next place your hands on the knees and slowly bring your single leg close to your chest. Hold this stretching pose for some seconds and try to remain relaxed. Repeat the same stretching exercise on the other side. You can also do this stretching routine by bringing both the legs/knees to your chest at the same time if you can.
Benefits: The knee to chest stretch is beneficial in increasing the spinal flexibility and helps in alleviating the ache in the lower back.(7)
The Spinal Twist Stretch(11)
Lie on your back and extend your arms, then lift up your right leg and keep your right foot on the ground. Gently cross the right leg over the left side of the body and let allow it to fall naturally towards the floor. Take the help of your left hand to hold the knee and gently press your knee. If you want a deeper twist, then turn your head towards the right. Inhale and exhale deeply while keeping your spine relaxed. Repeat this stretch on the other side.
Benefits: The spinal twist stretch increases the mobility of the spine and helps with the slouched posture resulting from working at a desk all day long.
The Butterfly Stretch(9)
Sit on a mat with your legs extended out in front of you. Now join together the soles of your feet and bring them closer towards your body while leaning forward. Focus on keeping your spine straight as possible. Relax in this butterfly pose for some seconds so the stretch can deepen.
Benefits: The butterfly stretch helps in stretching the lower back and inner thighs.(7)
The Lunge Stretch
Take up a kneeling or a standing position and get come into a lunge position by placing one foot in front of the other. Make sure to use the opposite knee to bear some of your weight. Focus on keeping your chest open and your spine straight. Repeat this stretch on the other side.
Benefits: This stretch helps in loosening your hamstrings, glutes and hip flexors.
The Bear Hug Stretch(7)
Keep your arms wide stretched and then wrap your arms around yourself just as if you are hugging yourself. Hold your shoulders and gently pull on them to deepen the stretch. Continue to breathe while relaxing in this pose for about 30 seconds. Release and stretch wide your arms again and place the other arm on top and do this stretch again.
Benefits: This stretching exercise helps in relaxing the arms, rhomboids, shoulders and trapezius muscles.(7) The Bear Hug Stretch is also good for emotional health, as it involves a little self-love.
The Child’s Pose Stretch
Start with a cat’s pose on your arms and knees and then slowly move backwards and sit back on your heels and keep your arms extended out. Your knees should be at least hip-width apart in the child’s pose stretch. Also make sure to keep your spine lengthened. Walk forward with your hands till you are almost flat on the ground. Keep your head relaxed on the floor. Stay relaxed in this pose and you can relax your shoulders by placing your arms at the sides.
Benefits: The Child’s Pose Stretch helps in relaxing tense shoulders and expels the tension from your neck and stretches your back too.(7)
The Legs Up the Wall Stretch
Lie on your side while keeping your legs along the wall. Gently turn onto your back and elevate your legs so that they are moving upwards up the wall. Try to expel all the tension from your hips and slowly breathe. You can support your hips by putting a cushion/pillow under your hips. The legs up the wall stretch should be done for about 15 minutes daily.
Benefits: This stretching exercise helps in increasing circulation in the restless or aching legs and also helps deal with digestive problems.(7) The legs up the wall stretch is great for ending your nighttime stretching exercise routine.