The benefits of stretching before bed
If you’re someone who struggles to wind down before bed, releasing the day’s tension with a tried and tested stretching routine is a great way to put your mind to rest - and keep your body healthy.
This is our guide to the benefits of a pre-bedtime stretch, how to tackle bedtime yoga safely, and which stretches you should try for a great night’s sleep. Let’s go!
Four reasons to stretch before sleeping
Stretching is good at any time of the day, but there are plenty of extra reasons to do it before going to bed. The benefits are both mental and physical, which sounds like a win-win situation to us.
We all know that regular stretching helps your muscles stay strong and flexible, particularly after exercise, when they might feel ‘tight’. The same goes for when we’ve had a long day - stretching our muscles after walking around and carrying out our daily tasks helps reduce that feeling of tightness, which we might not even realise we have.
Unlike more vigorous exercise, stretching before bed can make us feel calm and relaxed, which helps us drift off.
3. Fewer muscle cramps
Many of us stay in one position (or a few similar ones) all night. Stretching before bed could help prevent the stiffness and cramps caused by this.
4. Healthy routine
Stretching at the same time before bed contributes to a healthy sleep routine. When this routine is familiar to you, it will tell your body that it’s time to nod off.
It’s also a good idea to stretch in the morning, as this helps ‘warm up’ our muscles after a long night of inactivity. Aim for ten minute before and after sleep and see what a difference it makes!
How to safely stretch before bed
Stretching should be simple, fun, and relaxing. Having said that, it’s still possible to injure yourself if you don’t do it properly. Here’s how to keep yourself in tip-top shape when you’re tackling the bedtime yoga:
- Switch it up by alternative sets of stretches every night. This can help prevent repetitive strains (and it makes things more interesting, too).
- Move into your stretch slowly - don’t ‘bounce’ into it, as this can cause injury. And remember to hold it for around thirty seconds before slowly moving out of it.
- You should be able to feel your muscles stretching, but if it hurts, you’re pushing yourself too far. Take a step back and try something a little easier. (You’ll get better at stretching, we promise!)
- Breathe normally. It’s easy to accidentally hold your breath when you’re concentrating, but this could make you feel dizzy.
- If you have any injuries, check with your doctor to find out which stretches are most suitable.
- Make sure you have plenty of clear space around you, and that if you fall, you have something soft to land on.
The best bedtime stretches
We’ve picked five pre-sleep stretches designed to spread calm through your body and brain before bed. Try one (or all) of them for between five and fifteen minutes before sleep, and see if you sense a difference.
1. The forward fold
There’s nothing like letting it all hang out at the end of a long day, and a forward fold (known as Uttanasana by yogis) will allow your body to do just that.
- Stand with your feet hip width apart, slowly reaching down to touch the earth. Don’t worry if this isn’t possible; comfort is key to relaxation.
- Touch your thighs or calves if it’s better.
- Grab your elbows whilst you hang, swinging gently from left to right.
- Hold for up to 15 seconds.
- Feel the release of tension in the spine and the stretch in your hamstrings - important if your work is both sedentary or mobile.
2. Up the wall pose
Unbeknownst to us, we’ve been yogis since childhood once doing acrobatics like the legs-up-the-wall pose or 'Viparita Karani', as it is more officially known, without even thinking. Elevating the legs is a great move for those who work on their feet and is a stretch done as easily on a bed as it is on the floor.
- Lie on your back and get comfortable, ensuring your neck is supported.
- When you're ready, prop your legs up against the wall.
- If you want to really feel the stretch, scoot your bottom all the way up against the wall so that your body is at an almost perfect right angle.
- Stretch your arms out on either side of you, reach with your fingers as though you could touch the other walls and breathe.
3. Up the cobra
A far less dangerous pose than it sounds, cobra is a move to complete on your front. Cobra will strengthen your core and re-align the spine whilst decreasing stiffness in the lower back.
- Lie face down - on your bed or the floor - and raise your torso up by pushing yourself away from the ground with your hands.
- Open your chest whilst taking long, considered breaths.
- Release yourself by lowering your chest and forehead to the ground.
- If you’re on the bed already, simply roll over and welcome sleep.
4. Happy baby
Perhaps the most humorously titled of the yoga positions, happy baby pose is joyful, satisfying and can best of all can be done from the comfort of your bed.
- Lie on your back and grab your feet above your torso.
- Rock from side to side, enjoying the massaging of your spine.
- If holding your feet is something that’s not coming easily, try looping a dressing gown tie over your feet and holding it in your hands, ready to rock the cares away.
5. Child’s pose
One for the morning as well as before bed, child’s pose is a rest pose during a yoga sequence.
- Fall into place by kneeling hip-width apart
- Bring the hands down in front of you.
- Lay your torso out in a bow so your forehead touches the floor.
Focus on breathing in all of these stretches, allowing concentration to ready you for rest. The results should be a sense of calm and relaxation before sleeping, or a feeling of rested readiness on waking up.