Everybody tosses and turns occasionally. But if you are one of the 40 percent people who have trouble sleeping, some gentle pre-bed stretches can help you get the shots you need. Why? “Stretching and yoga activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which tells your body to slow down, relax and digest,” said Candace Cabrera Tavino, an E-RYT 500 yoga instructor and NASM personal trainer. “So later on, you will feel more calm and comfortable for a good night’s sleep.”
Not only does yoga promote good sleep, research has shown that it can also be a natural way to combat insomnia. And if restless legs keep you awake at night, there’s better news. A recent study found that regular yoga practice reduced the symptoms of restless leg syndrome in 77 percent of participants resulting in improved sleep quality, not to mention low stress and a happy mood.
That being said, not all stretching routines are equally effective. According to the National Sleep Foundation, you’ll want to avoid something that pumps your heart out, such as Venice or Hot Yoga. Instead, stick to slow, restorative routines that encourage deep breathing, such as hand, yin, or sleep yoga.
How is pre-bedtime stretching different from regular day yoga or stretch classes? For starters, it doesn’t take too long. The technique should take about 10 minutes, but you can always go longer if you want. Also, you can do this in the comfort of your bed, although a carpet floor or yoga mat is also a good option, says Cabrera Tavino. And no need to wait until the lights go out. Stretching anytime in the evening can help ease your mind and muscles.
So put on your most comfortable PJs, dim the lights and get ready to relax your way to the dream country with these tranquil-pre-bedtime stretches.
Seated cat-cow. Start with a simple posture, cross your legs and sit up straight with your hands on your knees. Inhale, gently bend your back, and draw your sternum forward while looking at the ceiling. Then, reverse the pose. Exhale and bald your chin. Round the back and straighten your arms while touching your knees. Return to simple posture and repeat for 5 breaths.
Seated twist. Starting in a simple posture, move your left hand to your right knee. Bring your right hand to the ground behind you. Inhale and lengthen with the spine. Exhale and pull tightly on the right knee for twisting. Repeat 5 times. Go back to the center and switch to the other side for 5 repetitions.
Seated side bend. Continuing in a simple posture, place your right hand next to you on the ground about a foot away from your body. Inhale, lift the left arm up and over your head. Then, lean to the right and exhale. Try it 5 times, then repeat on the other side.
Seated forward fold. Sit with your legs flexed and straight in front of you. Place your fingers on the floor on either side of your buttocks. Breathe to lengthen the spine. Then exhale and lean forward, keeping your back flat and reaching for your toes. If it is comfortable, feel free to hold the side of your foot. Hold for 1 to 3 minutes.
Leg up the wall. Lie flat on your back facing the wall (or the headboard of your bed) and keep your tailbone as close to the wall as possible. Raise your legs in the air, pressing up against the wall so that your body is like the letter L. Keep your arms at your sides, facing your palms upwards. Hold for 3 minutes. To release the posture, slowly draw your knees to your chest and roll to your side. Slowly push yourself into a sitting position and rest quietly for a few seconds before standing.
This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended as an alternative to medical diagnosis or treatment. This information should not be used to diagnose or treat your health problems or conditions. Always consult your doctor before changing your diet, changing your sleep habits, taking supplements, or starting a new fitness routine.