Home MIND & BODY Make Stretching Before Bed a Habit With These 5 Feel-Good Moves

Make Stretching Before Bed a Habit With These 5 Feel-Good Moves

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Whether you’re into morning stretches or stretching before bed, “finding some time to stretch and work on mobility of your joints and muscles is a good idea,” says Dr. Theresa Marko, PT, DPT, M.S.

Scheduling a P.M. stretch sesssion may be easier and offer some extra benefits.

“Stretching before bed provides a great opportunity to relieve tension in muscles that feel tight over the course of the day,” says Dr. Leada Malek, PT, DPT, C.S.C.S., SCS.

“When combined with breathing techniques, it can even reduce stress,” explains Malek. “Getting the nervous system to calm down before bed can help you fall asleep and stay asleep better!”

Start your own stretching before bed habit with Controlled Stretch or Unstress — or try these stretches at night:

1. Downward Dog

Woman practicing downward facing dog yoga at home

This traditional yoga pose is also a good stretch for your hips, hamstrings, and calves, which can build up tension throughout the day from sitting. (Ideally, you’re also doing these stretching exercises at your desk throughout the day to stay limber.)

  • Start on all fours, with your hands under your shoulders and your knees under your hips.
  • Spread your fingers and curl your toes under so the balls of your feet are on the floor.
  • Take a deep breath. On the exhale, push your hips toward the ceiling.
  • Straighten your arms without locking your elbows. Try to disperse your weight through your whole hand.
  • Keep your knees slightly bent as you press your heels toward the floor. Hold for 30 seconds or more.

2. Cobra Pose

Woman in cobra pose

You can transition smoothly from Downward Dog into Cobra Pose if you feel like flowing through the movements for a more dynamic stretch.

This stretch should relieve tension in your shoulders and lower back.

  • Start lying flat on the floor with the tops of your feet touching the ground.
  • Place your hands to the sides of your chest and point your toes.
  • Gently press your hands and toes into the ground as you lift your upper body off the floor.
  • Raise your head and chest as you roll your shoulders back and down, away from your ears.
  • Think about pulling your chest up and out as you keep your hips on the ground.
  • Hold for 30 seconds or more.

3. Figure 4 Glute Stretch

This stretch is perfect for loosening up tight hips and glutes. If you’re holding a lot of tension, Marko says not to force the movement.

Instead, get into a position, breathe and relax there, then move deeper into the stretch if you can.

  • Sit on the edge of your bed with your feet flat on the floor and hip-width apart.
  • Place the outside of your right ankle on the top of your left knee.
  • Try to push your knee down toward the floor until you feel a stretch through the outside of your right hip and your right glute.
  • Hold for 30 seconds or more, then switch legs and repeat.

4. Child’s Pose

Woman in child's pose on mat in her living room

Malek says your upper back can also hold tension throughout the day, especially from working on the computer.

Release it with this stretch, but don’t overcomplicate things if you don’t feel it through your back.

“The idea is to wind down and practice some mindfulness before you doze off,” she explains

  • Start on all fours, with your hands under your shoulders and your knees under your hips.
  • Push your hips back while keeping your hands planted on the ground.
  • Reach your hands out straight from your shoulders until you feel a stretch through your lats.
  • Once you relax into the movement, try to walk your hands forward to deepen the stretch.

5. Lying Hip Flexor Stretch

Save this one for last, and you can end your day with a stretch in bed.

The hips are one of the most common places for people to hold tension because of sitting.

But they can also “feel tight after sleeping all night,” explains Marko. That means stretching them right before bed is a one-two punch to loosen that hip tension.

  • Lie flat on your back with your legs hip-width apart.
  • Bring your right knee toward your chest as far as you can on its own.
  • Gently use your hands to pull your knee closer into your chest.
  • To make the stretch deeper and more challenging, perform it with a straight leg.
  • You can also use a strap to move your leg across your body to stretch the outside of your hip.

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