It’s not uncommon for our bedtime routines to include natural sleep aids like hot tea, singing bowl meditations, or melatonin. However, some movement may improve your chances of quality sleep. Here’s why you should stretch before bed, and which stretches you can try tonight.
The Benefits of Stretching Before Bed
Stretching exercises such as yoga are considered “meditative movement” in this 2016 scientific review of 17 studies, which states that “Improvement in sleep quality was reported in the majority of studies and was often accompanied by improvements in quality of life, physical performance, and depression.”
So, if you’re not stretching enough during that morning gym session or afternoon run, you absolutely should squeeze it in before bed.
Stretching before bed is also essential if you are prone to muscle tension from everyday stress or anxiety. Failing to release this tension means you are carrying it straight to bed, where it can inhibit your ability to fall and stay asleep.
There are benefits of stretching before bed that help you physically, too. After yoga, we lay in savasana so the fascia - the connective tissue coating our muscles, organs, and more - can cool down. When it does cool down post-release, not only are you more relaxed, but your muscles are less likely to ache or cramp in the night.
It can even improve your posture. Working out the kinks in your connective tissue and then lying at rest for hours afterward is a must for people who hunch over screens or want to level up their meditation practice.
Stretches to Try Before Bed
Gentle Neck Stretch
Sit up straight and gently tilt your right ear toward your shoulder. Only go as far as feels good; some people can almost make contact with the shoulder, while others may only move a few inches. Breathe deeply and stay in alignment as you feel the stretch in the elongated left side of your neck.
Repeat on the other side and finish by tipping your chin forward slowly to stretch the back of your neck.
Wide-Knee Child’s Pose
This classic yoga stretch opens the hips while it releases tension in the back. Kneel on the floor. Spread your knees until they’re more than hip-width apart, bringing your big toes together behind you. Now gently lean forward and rest your head and torso on the floor between your thighs - or as close as you can get.
Breath and relax. You can have your arms stretched out in front of you for a shoulder stretch, or keep them along your sides as you focus your shoulders away from your ears.
Seated Forward Bend
For those who work out a lot OR sit at a desk constantly, this targets two key areas - the hamstrings and lower back. Sit on the floor with legs straight out in front of you, toes pointed up, and feet active. Keep your back straight - don’t let it round - as you lean in with arms forward toward your toes.
After a minute or so of breathing through this, let your back round a little as you sink closer to your legs. Repeat with a wide-legged version if you’d like an inner-thigh stretch.
These are just three of our favorite pre-bed stretches; there are plenty more that can help you get better sleep. If you want to share your favorite stretch or want more ideas, let us know in the comments.
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