You've probably heard of the things you should do before bed so that you can fall asleep easily. Like creating a bedtime routine that helps you unwind. Or maybe you've read the advice about avoiding screen time. You could have been told to avoid certain foods and prioritize others before bed. And you might have even shopped for new bedding, blackout shades, a white-noise machine, essential oils, pillow sprays, sleep supplements, and more to help in the snooze department.
There are so many things you can do and try in order to get a better night's sleep. Some things might work for you, and others might not. But if you're looking for another "trick," why not try stretching before bed?
It might seem a bit odd to stretch before bed—I mean, you stretch before and after workouts and when you're feeling sore, but before you lie down for hours? It can sound like weird advice. But stretching can actually help you unwind. "Stretching before bed can help your body relax and aid in better sleep," explains Dani Coleman, director of training at P.volve Los Angeles. "When you stretch before bed, it can help promote blood flow to your muscles, flexibility, and help to relieve tension in places we typically overuse throughout our day like our neck and shoulders. Furthermore, stretching with the proper use of your breath can help calm your nervous system and help your mind release stress before sleeping."
Cavan Images/Getty Images
There are different types of stretching, but for your bedtime routine, you should go with static and passive stretching. Calm's Daily Move instructor and movement expert and director of You Got This Girl, Mel Mah, says that this type of stretching won't over-activate the mind and body. "The point is to wind your body down into a relaxed state so you can doze off. When you pair slow breathing with stretches, that further allows the whole body to release stress."
As for when you should stretch and how long you should do it, most of the experts I spoke to for this story say you should aim for 30 minutes before bedtime and anywhere between five to 20 minutes of stretching time. "Integrating just five minutes of restorative movement before bed can help increase mobility, alleviate soreness, and calm the mind and body," Coleman says.
Massage therapist and training and development manager at The Now Massage Matthew Perry recommends standing, sitting, or lying still and holding each stretching position for a period of time—30 seconds to a minute. Afterward, close your eyes and practice some meditative breathing to complete the ritual. Perry also suggests warming up your muscles by taking a warm bath or shower before the ritual. "You can add magnesium bath salts or essential oil. A few pumps of our Now Classic or Hemp Body Oil are great for soothing and softening skin," he says.
Perry also recommends focusing on your breathing since it enhances relaxation and makes it easier to hold stretches for the appropriate amount of time. And if you feel any pain, stop the movement immediately. "Remember with stretching, you should feel a little bit of tension but should not feel pain," Coleman says. "Make sure before bed especially that you do not overdo it. The point is to get the body into a more relaxed state, not to stress it."
You also want to be careful that your stretching is calming and not quite energizing since you're trying to wind down. "Don't try movements that increase heart rate or exertion before bed, as this will trick your body into wanting to stay awake, the reverse outcome you are looking for," says Austin Martinez, VP of training and experience at StretchLab.
Try these relaxing stretches below.
1. Child's Pose
Child's pose can release any tightness you may feel in your body, relieve body tension, and reduce back pains, Perry says. And Coleman adds that it will stretch your lower back, thighs, glutes, ankles, and upper body.
Coleman shares how to do it:
1. Start gently kneeling on your shins, toes untucked, and knees slightly wider than your hips.
2. Gently walk your hands out in front of your body, bow your head, and rest it on the floor. Arms can be outstretched with the palms up or down.
3. Hold this stretch for two minutes and breathe deeply.
Here's another neck stretch because with all the time we spend looking at our phones throughout the day, our necks might be feeling it. Coleman says this is a great stretch to do if you struggle with rounded shoulders. And Perry adds that it can relieve tightness in the neck and upper trapezius muscles.
Perry shares how to do it:
1. Sit or stand, maintaining an upright and comfortable position.
2. While your face remains forward, put your right hand to the top of your head or your left ear.
3. Gently rest your right ear on your right shoulder.
4. Hold for 30 seconds.
5. Switch positions and repeat.
6. Supine Twist
Perry says the supine twist helps to relax your body by stretching your back, glutes, and hip muscles.
Mah shares how to do it:
1. Lie on your back, and draw your right knee into your chest, left leg long.
2. Interlace 10 fingers around your right shin and pull the leg.
3. Take a breath in. Then exhale and draw the right knee to the left side and extend your right arm out to the side in line with your shoulder. Keep both shoulders grounded as you twist.
4. For a deeper stretch, you can turn your nose toward your right hand.
5. Switch to the other side.
7. Side Stretch
This can feel so good since it elongates the sides of your body.
Mah shares how to do it:
1. Sit in a comfortable position on the floor with your legs crossed.
2. Gently reach your right arm up. Then bend over to the left, elongating the right side of your body.
3. Deepen into the stretch and breathe in and out.
This article was originally published at an earlier date and has since been updated.
This article is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to be used in the place of advice of your physician or other medical professionals. You should always consult with your doctor or healthcare provider first with any health-related questions. See our full health disclaimer here.