Circadian rhythms are natural, biological rhythms that regulate our physical, behavioral, and psychological functions in cycles lasting about 24 hours. While most people only associate circadian rhythms with the sleep-wake cycle, Dr. Weiss says they play an important role in hormone regulation, immune function and pain control. “The circadian rhythm of pain interacts with the pain modulatory, endocrine and immune systems,” he explains. “Recent research demonstrates higher reactivity in these combined systems at night.”
Both pain and physical discomfort are considered significant sleep disruptors, and Dr. Weiss says the less sleep you get, the more intense both will feel. Because lack of sleep increases the perception of pain. This, in turn, can make you more sensitive to your physical discomfort.
Whether you’re in significant physical pain, or just don’t feel physically comfortable, exercise, among other things, can help tremendously. To allow for pain, Dr. Weiss recommends taking a slow walk before bed, and he adds that although there is limited scientific evidence that stretching before bed can reduce pain and improve sleep, sleep professionals often prescribe specific steps for this exact purpose. “From a clinical perspective,” he said, “we recommend expanding on experimental evidence and patient reports.” Below are four she often suggests people add to their nighttime routine for more relaxing, quality zzz’s.
Try 4 stretches before bed when you can’t sleep
Start on all fours with your hands under your shoulders and your knees under your hips. On an exhale, pull your tailbone in, round your spine toward the ceiling, and lower your gaze to look at your thighs. This is your cat’s location. Then inhale, arch your back and lower your belly to the floor while lifting your head and tailbone toward the ceiling. This is the position of the cow. Complete 10-15 rounds.
Start by kneeling on your bed with your thumbs together, knees wide and butt on heels. Walk your arms forward and lower your chest until your forehead rests on your mattress or pillow, allowing your arms to extend long in front of you, bringing the biceps close to the ears. Inhale for 4-6 counts and exhale for 6-8 counts. Continue for 30-60 seconds.
3. Butterfly stretch
Begin sitting with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor. Bend your knees like a book and bring the soles of your feet closer to your pelvis. To deepen the stretch, hold onto your feet and use your elbows to gently press your knees as if to lean or fold forward from your hips. Place a pillow or blanket under your knees to reduce the intensity. Hold the stretch for 30-60 seconds.
4. Puppy pose
Begin by kneeling on all fours. Leaving your hips on your knees, walk your hands forward and lower your chest until your front rests on your mattress or pillow. With arms straight and biceps close to ears, you should feel a stretch along your entire spine, upper back and shoulders. Hold for 30-60 seconds.
Exercise to reduce sleep discomfort
While Dr. Weiss says there isn’t much research showing that exercises performed in bed the moment you can’t sleep will be immediately beneficial in relieving your discomfort and getting you to sleep, she says there is strong scientific evidence for exercise outside of bed being able to do just that. . He recommends strength training, Pilates, core exercises, yoga, tai chi, passive and active stretching, and bodyweight exercises that increase strength, flexibility, and mobility.
“Exercise is an excellent option for achieving a healthy lifestyle and good sleep for everyone (with or without pain) and for all ages,” she says. “It improves the quality and duration of sleep and can help you get deeper sleep.” But if you experience chronic pain, consult your healthcare provider for treatment.