What Are the Best Exercises Before Bed
If you find it difficult to drift off at night, you’re not alone. In fact, the CDC reports that approximately 1 in 3 U.S. adults doesn’t get the recommended 7 hours of snooze every night.
But it’s not all about finding the perfect relaxation playlist or avoiding social media. In today’s hectic world, switching off can take more than pressing the ‘off’ button on the TV.
Why exercise before bed?
At this point, we’re all well aware of the benefits of exercise for both our body and mind. The release of endorphins plus a little self-esteem boost as we achieve our fitness goals is rewarding enough… But do we really want to be undertaking a blood-rate-boosting activity right before bed?
Experts advise that improving your sleep with exercise is all about which exercises you do and when you do them. Heading out for a run or cardio-intensive workout? Do this first thing in the morning to get your heart pumping and prepare your brain for whatever the day has in store.
Before bed, however, is where static stretching can work magic. Stretching and meditative exercises such as yoga have been proven to improve sleep quality by stimulating relaxation. This basically means by participating in slow, controlled exercises and focusing on your breathing, the body is flooded with calming hormones and physiological reactions that quiet the nervous system.
These calming workouts are perfect for stress management and help your mind and body relax, ready for a great nights’ sleep.
For even better results, try a hot bath or shower before completing this “moving meditation.” It’s more effective and safer to stretch warm muscles, plus the hot water will aid in the relaxation process.
The best exercises to do before bed
If you’re ready to improve your sleep cycle, try some of these static stretches inspired by yoga poses.
For these exercises, you’ll need to stretch the target muscles to the point of mild tension (you shouldn’t feel discomfort), then hold the pose for around 30 seconds (or longer, if the stretch feels good). As you move, focus on your breath. Try to create a full-body experience by considering every part of your body, from your toes to your fingertips.
To create a deeper stretch, you could also add some resistance bands (like the ones from Victorem). Double your relaxation with muscle-building, and you’ll be amazed at the results.
1. Child’s Pose
A child’s pose is a firm favorite in yoga as it allows you to release tension in your back and shoulders while also gently stretching the hips. The soothing effect makes this an excellent stretch for relaxation.
- Kneel on a mat with your knees roughly hip-width apart and big toes touching behind you.
- Take a deep inhale.
- As you exhale, slowly lower your torso towards the floor and stretch your arms out above your head.
- Lengthen the neck and spine.
- Keep lowering your body until your forehead rests on the ground, arms extended overhead.
- Hold for 60 seconds, or as long as feels good.
To deepen the stretch in the child’s pose, try extending your knees as wide as the mat or pulling your arms back towards your feet instead of stretching them in front of you.
This wonderful moving stretch helps you release tension in the upper back and neck while enforcing synchronization between the breath and movement, which offers a whole host of relaxation benefits.
- Start in a tabletop position on the floor. Check your hands are under your shoulders with knees beneath your hips.
- As you inhale, slowly drop your belly, push your chest forward, and look towards the sky (cow).
- Tuck your chin in towards the chest as you exhale, rounding the spine (cat).
- Move with your breath, resting in any place that feels good.
3. Knee to Chest Spinal Twist
This movement is comprised of two parts to fully stretch and soften the hips and lower back. Hold your position in any spot that feels good. Move with your breath.
- Start lying flat on your back, legs extended.
- Slowly bring your right knee up to your chest, keeping the left leg out. Be careful to keep your lower back flat on the ground.
- Wrap your fingers around your right shin to “hug” your knee into your chest, stretching your lower back and hips.
- Hold the “hug” position for three breaths.
- Let go of your knee and send it across the left leg to create your spinal twist.
- Turn your head to the right, aiming to keep your shoulder and knee touching the floor (or as close as you can get).
- Hold the twist for 5-10 breaths, then switch sides.
4. Box Breath
Box breathing is a breathing exercise rather than a physical movement, but it is beneficial for relaxation and sleep.
- Get into bed and lie on your back. Hands can rest on the belly.
- Close your eyes and breath in for the count of 4.
- Hold your breath for 4.
- Exhale fully for 4.
- Stay empty for 4.
- Repeat as needed.
To use this effectively, visualize a box as you breathe. For the inhale, you’ll travel up the first side of the box, then along the top as you hold, down as you exhale, and along the bottom for the empty hold.
Even if you just have 5 minutes to spare before bed, these exercises will help calm and quiet your mind and body to help you feel more relaxed.