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Why You Should Stretch Before Bed (And Eight Stretches To Try)

Stretch before bed to calm the mind. (It feels really, really good, too.)

It’s a typical nighttime ritual for many of us, tossing and turning in bed while attempting to fall asleep. Our minds race through endless checklists and neglected chores. We get up, browse Instagram, lie back down and try again. The next morning we awake groggy and anxious, the comforts of deep sleep having evaded us. This was my ritual once too, and only after months of consistent sleep deprivation did I discover a better way to go to bed. And that was  (as you might guess from the title of this article) to stretch before bed.

First, I had to figure out why I couldn’t sleep. For a while I thought it must be that I wasn’t properly tired when it was bedtime, but after the second month of on-again-off-again insomnia I knew that couldn’t be true. I had never been so tired in my life. Next I tried not drinking coffee or other caffeinated beverages after lunch, which, although a healthful practice, did nothing to help my sleep woes.

Finally I discovered the issue as I struggled to fall asleep one night, my brain writing and rewriting a mundane grocery list: I was not able to clear my mind of the day I had just ended, or able to clear it of the day ahead. I needed a buffer between my waking hours and my sleeping hours, and my time lying in my bed wasn’t enough. I needed a time to decompress my brain of all the anxiousness and activities of the day, before I transitioned into the quiet hours of the night.

After doing some research I settled on the best idea for me, which was stretching. Stretching before bed allowed my mind to calm, as it would in meditation. Unlike meditation though, stretching gives you something else to focus on and is therefore an easier activity for those who let their thoughts wander. I am most certainly in that group.

Since adding stretching to my bedtime routine, I have found that I am able to relax and fall asleep quicker, with the added benefit of becoming more flexible in the process. I go to bed calm, my mind settled from the soothing ritual of stretching. Below I will go through a guide of stretches that I do every night before bed. While I do these stretches I practice deep meditative breathing (in through the nose, and out through the mouth).

1. Sitting Head Roll: Sit in a crossed legs position with your spine straight. Gently drop your head to your right shoulder and stretch the side of your neck, before letting gravity take control and roll your neck to the front stretching the back of your neck, continue to your left shoulder before bringing your head back to neutral. Repeat with starting with the left.

2. Diamond Stretch: Bring your feet together so that the soles of the feet touch and your legs are in a diamond shape. Hold your feet to support your torso as you bend over your feet and stretch your back and glutes. Hold this stretch for 30 seconds.

3. Sitting Hamstring Stretch: Extend your legs out in front of you, parallel, and bend over to reach your toes. If this does not stretch your hamstrings you can reach underneath your feet to pull yourself closer. Do not hold this stretch for longer then one minute.

4. Sitting Lower Back Stretch: Remaining in the Sitting Hamstring Stretch position, wrap your hands around the backs of your feet and use this leverage to curve your lower back and pull it into a stretch for your lower spine. Every ten seconds or so, re-wrap your hands around your feet and pull to deepen the stretch in your back

5. Lying Quad Stretch: Lie on your stomach with your legs straight and parallel. Bend your right leg until feel a stretch in your quad, hold for 20 seconds. You may be able to reach around and grab your foot to increase the stretch, or use a towel or scarf to pull your foot closer. Repeat on left side.

6. Downward Dog: Place your hands on the floor, shoulder distance apart and fingers facing forward. Plant your feet approximately three feet from your hands, so that you are making a triangle shape with your body. Gently roll through your feet, stretching and lengthening your calves. Press through your torso, bringing it closer to your legs to stretch your hamstrings.

7. Standing Hamstring and Neck Stretch: From the Downward Dog position, walk your hands back to your feet so you are bent at the wait with your hand as close to the ground as possible. Stretch here for no more then 30 seconds. Next, interlace your hands behind your neck and let gravity stretch your neck, feeling your head elongate towards the floor. Hold for ten seconds.

8. Hip Flexor Stretch: Lay on your bed with your legs dangling off the side, the end of your pelvis one inch from the edge of the bed. Pull your right knee to your chest until you feel a stretch in your left hip flexor. Let your left leg relax and dangle off the bed while you hold the stretch for 30 seconds. Repeat on the left side.

...this helps, too
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