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Medically Reviewed by Dr. Jenny Iyo
Stretching before bed is a natural way to support better sleep. Connecting your body to your breath is one of the best ways to tune out from the stresses of your day and relax. Gentle stretches help relieve muscle tension and support a mindful awareness of your body and your breath.
Mindful awareness is known to improve the quality of sleep. Getting your body into a peaceful state before bedtime helps promote a more restful night in bed. Relieving muscle tightness and soreness can also prevent painful sleep interruptions, like cramps.
Connecting your body to your breath is one of the best ways to tune out from the stresses of your day and relax. Gentle stretches help relieve muscle tension and support a mindful awareness of your body with your breath. That mindful awareness is known to improve not only the quality of sleep itself but any daytime disturbances that are a result of its loss. That said, getting your body into a peaceful state before bedtime helps promote a more restful night in bed. Relieving muscle tightness and soreness can also prevent painful sleep interruptions, like cramps.
Whatever stretches you choose, it’s important that they are gentle. Tai chi and some types of yoga are both great approaches to bedtime stretching. Any type of rigorous exercise before bed may stimulate your body and make it harder to fall asleep.
Bedtime stretches are beneficial to people of all ages. They can help children learn the benefits of mindfulness at an early age and wind down from an active day. Stretching before bed can help an adult focus his or her mind from a busy day of work, family needs, and daily stressors.
Humans lose flexibility as they age, so bedtime stretching is a great way for the elderly to release body tension and increase flexibility. Stretching improves mobility, can relieve joint pain and can address balance issues, all of which can prevent injury for the elderly.
There are many different stretches that are restorative and can support a great night’s sleep. Gentle hip openers can help relieve stress and discomfort from sitting at a desk during the day. Hamstring stretches can not only loosen your legs but also relieve tension in the lower back. Shoulder openers can help relieve tension in the neck, shoulders, and upper back.
It’s important to address any pre-existing injuries before creating a bedtime stretching routine. Make sure you consult a doctor or physical therapist if you have any pre-existing conditions that may be worsened by stretching before bed.
This guide will address the best stretches to do before bed for different groups of people and to address different types of mental and physical stresses. All recommendations are made to support a better night’s sleep.
No matter if you’re an adult professional athlete, a class junkie, or simply looking for a way to unwind after eight hard hours in the office, almost any adult can benefit from stretching before bed. The great thing is that you don’t need more than 10 minutes to achieve mind and body relaxation that will help you nod off to a great night’s sleep.
The three main target areas for the adult body are hips, shoulders, and feet. Tension can be held in our neck and shoulders and as a result of working in a desk environment. The same can be said for the hip and glutes area, which spend much of their modern days either crunched up in a chair or taught from standing on the job.
When it comes to stretching before bed, remember that easy does it. All stretches should be gentle and relaxing. Each exercise should be based upon mindful, slow, deep breaths.
Three helpful stretches before bed for adults are:
Your neck and shoulders can store stress and stiffen throughout the day. Loosening them up before sleep is a great way to avoid injuring your neck when you sleep. Neck and shoulder stretches are relaxing and can help you unwind before bed.
Here is how to do a two-step neck and shoulders stretch before bed:
Your feet work hard every day to support your life. Stretching them before bed can help you feel better, relax and improve your balance.
Here is how to do a quick foot flexor stretch:
Hips are a notoriously tight body part. That tightness is connected to many areas that surround it, so it’s important to release that stress. Tight hips are often connected to tight hamstrings, and tight hamstrings can strain your lower back. Your hips and pelvic area are a target for strain, wear, and tear throughout the day, both for people who stand and sit all day at work.
The low lunge to runner’s lunge progression is an easy way to target the hips, hip flexors, groin, glutes, and lower back in one flow. It can also work as a chest opener too. Remember to breathe deeply.
Here is how to do the low lunge/runner’s lunge progression:
Getting a good night’s rest is important for the elderly. When it comes to stretching before bed, the elderly should address issues such as stiffness and balance in a way that is gentle, focused, and poses no risk for injury. Here are a few options for stretches for the elderly before bed.
This is an easy stretch that can stretch your lower back and also stretch your glutes. You will feel your spine lengthen and twist. It can be done in bed too, which makes transitioning to sleep easy.
Here is how to do a spinal twist in bed:
Side reaches are a relatively easy and safe stretch that can relieve pressure in the arms, side body, and hips. They also help promote balance and flexibility.
Here is how to perform this stretch:
Over time, you can develop painful bunions, and issues with your arches, or toes. Moreover, your feet have nerves in your ankles and at the bottom of your feet, called proprioceptor nerves, that help you with balance and spatial awareness.
This quick massage will further stretch your feet and gently activate your proprioceptor nerves. Quick attention to the soles of your feet not only feels good and is relaxing, but it can help support a better balanced following day.
Here is how you do this stretch and massage:
Stretching before bed with children should be fun and simple. Children can learn mindfulness practices at an early age, and carry that knowledge with them for the rest of their life. While stretches with children should be fun, it’s important to keep them calming and not exhilarating. Here are three poses to do with children before bedtime that are equally beneficial for adults.
This pose opens the hips and stretches the thighs and hip flexors. It is mentally and physically calming stretch to do before bed, because it turns the focus of the mind inward.
Here is how reclined butterfly pose is done:
This restorative pose has the perfect name for children. It stretches the lower back, hips, thighs, and arms. It also calms the central nervous system and relieves mental and physical tension.
Here is how to do child’s pose:
This stretch is a relaxing way to stretch the neck, spine, arms, and hips. It’s simple and fun, and kids (and adults) can add a silly face to the cow pose as their heads come up.
Here’s how to do the cat/cow stretch:
One of the best ways to address lower back pain is to target the hips and glutes. A stretch that gives both a backstretch and hips/glute stretch is the fold-over stretch. It’s called pigeon pose in yoga. It’s great to do after a few cat/cow rotations, once your spine is a little looser, too.
Here is how the fold-over stretch is done:
Another great stretch to do before bed that releases lower back pressure is the wall hamstring stretch. Here is how it’s done:
Focusing the mind on your breath is one of the most effective ways to let go of a stressful day. Balancing poses are helpful with this process and can help your mind unwind and get ready for rest. Tree pose is an effective mind balancing pose, and it helps with balance as well as stretches your arms.
Here is how tree pose is done:
Another stretch before bed that can help your mind unwind is Savasana pose. While it’s not exactly a stretch, it’s a vital step into letting your mind empty and bring your focus to the present. Depending on how tight your lower back and hips are, it can serve as a gentle stretch along the spine and sacrum.
Here is how to do Savasana pose:
There are a few products to help you stretch safely and more easily. The more you stretch the more flexible you will become. But props can help you protect your knees, make an intense pose more restorative, or help you achieve better form as you continue along your stretching journey. Some of the most useful products to help you stretch before bed are listed below.
Yoga bolsters are cushions that are designed for restorative stretching. They are the length of an average human’s spine and have enough resistance in their filling to be supportive but also comfortable. They have straps at their ends, which makes them safe and easy to carry.
Just placing a bolster with its short end at your tailbone along the floor and laying along it is a wonderful and easy pre-bedtime stretch. They are great aids for stretching for the elderly, as they make stretches more gentle and supportive.
A yoga mat is a good addition to your stretching before bed routine for a few reasons. A yoga mat offers a sticky surface that will ensure you don’t slip. It useful as padding below joints that may be tender, and can easily be folded to provide padding as needed.
Introducing a yoga mat to stretching with children is a great way to create a designated space for the activity that will help the child focus their mind on stretching. Mats can also be rolled up to provide added support and used as a cushion upon which to sit. Yoga mats come in many different thicknesses and sizes.
A resistance band, or yoga strap, is a great tool for stretching before bed. It creates extra length between your hands and feet when doing stretches, making your body more aligned and the stretch more beneficial. If you are stiff and try to do a stretch that is hard for your body at its current flexibility level, the stretch can end up being out of alignment, or simply out of reach.
Stretching before bed is a great practice for people of all ages and levels of health. While it’s important not to overuse areas of your body that may be injured, there is very little risk to stretching before bed and the benefits are endless. Stretching improves flexibility and mobility. It promotes concentration, supports balance, and can help relieve stress, anxiety, and depression.
Stretching goes hand in hand with mindful, deep breathing. Deep breathing is known to be beneficial to not only relax the mind and body, but is a tool that can be helpful during the day when stressors trigger. The process of taking ten minutes out of your day before bed to stretch, breathe, and relax gets your body ready for a more fruitful night’s sleep. Stretching before bed also prepares you for a better balanced next day.