Most people have a regular bedtime routine, even if you don’t necessarily think of yours in that way. At the very least, your routine probably consists of teeth brushing or removing your contacts — but are you doing anything to get your muscles and brain ready for bed? In a review of Chinese and American studies from the medical journal Sleep Medicine Reviews, meditative movements like yoga and tai chi before bed proved to improve sleep quality, and also enhance the overall well-being of an individual’s physical and mental health. As a matter of fact, yoga has turned out to be highly beneficial for those who struggle to fall asleep at night due to either sore muscles, or a restless mind.
In a survey by the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, over half of the people who engaged in yoga before bed said it helped them get more restful sleep. However, you don’t need to be a die-hard yogi to reap the benefits of yoga. There are several gentle yoga poses almost anybody can do that help contribute to a better night’s sleep by relieving tension in muscles and promoting the practice of meditation. As you hold certain positions, you’re forced to focus on your body and your breathing which helps relieve stress, and teaches you to be more mindful of your thoughts. It’s not easy to dwell on your stressful day at work while you’re concentrating on holding your form. After your light yoga session, you should feel calmer, more relaxed, and ready to hop into bed.
On a personal note, incorporating yoga into my bedtime routine has helped relieve the pressure in my joints and hips after sitting at my desk for close to eight hours per day. Previously, as a person who spends a lot of time sleeping on their side, I’d wake up feeling tight and sore the following morning after 7+ hours of non-stop pressure against my hip, even if I slept on a plush mattress.
While stretching is key, also ensure you eat sleep friendly foods.
Here are a few simple, but effective stretches you can do in the comfort of your own home to help you improve sleep quality.
1.) Butterfly Pose
This is a great pose to do before bed because it’s a meditative movement. It allows you to gently stretch your inner thighs and lower back, while you focus on your breathing and enter a state of relaxation.
Sit on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you, then bring the soles of your feet together. Without bending your spine, pull your feet in towards your body and deepen the stretch. Rest in this pose for as long as you see fit.
2.) Child’s Pose
This is another less demanding, meditative pose that engages your muscles and your mind. Child’s pose relieves tension in your back, neck, and shoulders, and it’s a good stretch to resort back to in between other stretches. Especially if you start getting more advanced with your movements.
For this stretch, you’ll want to sit with your knees on the floor hip-distance apart and lean back so your behind is resting on your heels. Lower your head to the ground so your forehead is touching the ground, and reach your hands straight out in front of you with your palms facing down. Hold this position for five minutes.
3.) Seated Side Stretch
This is another simple sitting pose that’ll make your body and muscles ultra-relaxed before bed. The seated side stretch will target your obliques while you also work on strengthening your core and lengthening your spine.
Sit on the ground starting with your right leg extended outward, and the other one crisscrossed. Using your left arm, reach it over your head toward your extended leg while you remain seated. You should be feeling the stretch on the left side of your body. Keep your left arm lifted above your ear, and rest your other arm resting on the floor. Hold for 10 breaths, and switch sides.
We aren’t talking about the fully extended bridge you’ve probably seen professional gymnasts do, we’re talking about the before-bed bridge. This one is easier to accomplish, but you still get a good stretch in your glutes, core muscles, hamstrings, and adductors.
Lay on the ground facing the ceiling with your feet flat on the floor, and bend your knees. Keep your arms at your sides with your palms facing up. Incorporate your abs and press into your heels, bringing your hips and back off the ground. Hold the position for 10 slow inhales.
5.) Low Lunge
This is an ideal pose for those of you who work at an office where you spend the majority of your day sitting down because it’ll loosen the tension in your hips and make them feel less tight. Aside from your hip flexors, you’ll also be targeting your hamstrings, glutes and your groin area. Also, keep your chest open while you lunge to help relieve back pain and pressure in your shoulders.
Start on all fours, and step up with your right leg, placing it on the outside your right hand. Next, bring your left knee back so it’s behind your toes on your right foot. Keep your hands on the floor for balance, or lift them up towards the ceiling. Hold for 10 slow inhales, and switch legs.
6.) Corpse Pose
Yes, laying flat on the ground is actually considered a yoga pose. You won’t be stretching out any muscles during the corpse pose, but you’ll certainly be relaxing the mind. Save this position for the end of your stretching routine, because you’ll likely find yourself asleep by the end of it.
Crawl into bed and lay on your back with your legs spread out in front of you about hip distance apart. Your arms should remain at your side, with your palms facing up towards the ceiling. Close your eyes, and focus on your breathing. Hold this position for about five minutes, or until you slowly drift off to sleep.
McKenzie Dillon is a blogger and sleep enthusiast for The Slumber Yard, a review site that focuses on bedding products. When she’s not sleeping, McKenzie likes attending music festivals, reading fiction novels and practicing yoga.
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