Sleep

Stretching can help you get a better night's sleep

  • Adopting a stretch routine before bed can help you fall asleep more quickly
  • It's also important to focus on your breathing to help calm your mind
  • Avoid strenuous exercise within an hour before bedtime

Struggling to sleep and don't want to turn to medication?

Static stretching might just be what you need to wind down body and mind just before hitting the pillow – plus it will increase your flexibility.

Exercise at night

While it's generally agreed that exercise during the day can help you sleep easier at night, there has been some debate about whether exercise in the evening is good for sleep.

Studies have found that evening workouts have no impact on sleep. However, intense exercise performed an hour or less before bedtime can have a negative impact on your shuteye. 

READ | No excuses - try these anywhere upper body stretches 

Static stretching

This is where static stretching comes in, but what is it exactly?

It involves holding certain poses that briefly put stress on the muscles. Generally, this is done at the end of a workout, while dynamic stretching is done beforehand, where you move through movements like lunges and running in place to warm up the muscles.

Research, however, advises against static stretching before a workout.

Static stretches are similar to resting yoga poses and can be done in five minutes just before bed.

Remember to breathe

Focused breathing throughout your stretches is a major component of static stretching. Your mind, as well as your body, is calmed through this process, but it's important to stay away from your smartphone if you want to retain this zen state.

You can also do static stretching after a shower when your muscles are warm, making it easier to do deeper stretches, but avoid pushing yourself too hard.

If you, however, have any back, neck or knee problems it's important to consult a physiotherapist or doctor to find out which stretches are suitable for you.

READ MORE | A consistent bedtime is good for your heart 

8 stretches to try

Here are a few stretches you can try out, holding each pose for about 30 seconds, or as long as your muscles will allow. The key is not to exert yourself, but to push a little deeper into your stretch each time, while exhaling.

Forward fold

With feet shoulder-width apart, slowly roll down and let your arms and head hang downwards, either reaching for your toes or loosely and slowly swinging from side to side while holding your elbows.

Cat-cow 

Go on all fours, knees and hands shoulder-width apart and slowly move between curving your back upwards and head down like a cat, and pushing your spine down and head up like a cow. 

Child's pose

Tuck your knees together and bend forward with your hands outstretched or at your side, forehead to the floor.

Side stretches

Sit up with legs crossed, or one or both stretched out to the side and bend your arm to the opposite side over your head. Do the same for the other side.

Touch your toes

Sit with your legs stretched out in front of you and bend forward, your hands reaching for your toes. 

Knees to chest

Lie on your back, square your hips and pull up one leg – knee to chest – and hold it there. Do the same for the other leg.

Bridges

Lying on your back, knees up and feet planted to the floor shoulder-width apart, thrust your hips upward into small bridges. Ensure your shoulders are firmly planted on the floor, and only go as high as feels comfortable. 

Spinal twist

Lying down, bring your one knee to your chest and then lean it towards the opposite side, hand on knee. Then lean with the other hand to the opposite side, essentially twisting your spine.

READ | What yoga does to your body – according to science 

yoga stretches

(Image: Gabi Zietsman/Canva/Pixabay)

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