You might often crave a lie-down in bed when you’re busy, but it doesn’t always mean you can get to sleep straight away.
Exercising and stretching are two of the best ways to prepare your body and mind for a restful sleep. And even though it’s not recommended to vigorously exercise in the hours leading up to bedtime, gentle exercises like yoga and stretching can be beneficial.
Did you know that there are low-impact workouts you can do from the comfort of your own bed, in your favourite pyjama set, before you head off to the land of nod?
Here, I’ll cover three stretches you can do to help you drift into an easy sleep.
Rocking knees to chest
If you’ve ever taken a yoga class, you’ll be familiar with this move. Your sessions may start and finish with this exercise as a warm-up or warm-down, and it offers a range of benefits, from soothing you to sleep to easing lower-back pain.
In bed, lie on your back and slowly bring your knees up to your chest. Wrap your arms around them and begin rocking gently from side to side.
Go as far to each side as your body allows – if the movement becomes uncomfortable, it won’t be benefiting you. If it’s easier for you, you can bring one knee up at a time and still reap the sleep-boosting benefits.
Many people find practising this in bed easier than on the floor or on a yoga mat because the soft mattress is more forgiving as you rock side to side.
It’s recommended to stay in this pose for at least five to ten long, slow, deliberate breaths before you gently lower your knees again.
Another move drawn from yoga, the child’s pose is one of the most relaxing stretches you can do before going to sleep. It’s known to gently stretch out different areas of our body, including our hips, thighs, and spine.
It also has mental health benefits, allowing for mental decompression as well as physical. It fosters a feeling of relaxation and can boost your mindfulness exercises.
It’s also a great exercise to do in the comfort of your bed. Sit upright on your knees with your bottom resting on your feet.
Then begin to extend your upper body forward onto your bed, stretching your hands, palms down, as far out in front of you as they’ll go (but without rounding your shoulders forward). Place your forehead on your bed in-between your arms and breathe deeply.
You can even do a modified version of this pose using pillows for maximum comfort. Stack two pillows on your bed where you’ll place your torso, and lean forward onto them, resting your head to one side.
Allow your arms to settle by the sides of the pillows and relax your entire body. You’ll be ready for sleep before you know it.
Legs up against the wall
A pose that does what it says on the tin, legs up against the wall pose is one of the most restful things you can do before bed. If your bed is up against one of your bedroom walls, you can do this right before you drop off into your dreams.
Get as close to your wall as you can, lie down on your bed, and bring your legs up to rest vertically against the wall. Shuffle closer if you need to so your body is bent at a right angle – and place a pillow or rolled-up towel under your bottom to support your hips if needed.
Lying with your legs raised against something activates your parasympathetic nervous system – your body’s rest-and-digest function. It’s the body’s state of relaxation, reducing stress and anxiety and putting you into rest mode.
Activating this vital function can help get you into a sleep-ready state, so that’s why this is one of the best sleep-boosting exercises you can do.
Movement and stretching are important to loosen stiff muscles and prepare us for relaxation and a good night’s sleep. The good news is that there are plenty of stretches that you can do in the comfort of your bed – so once they’re complete and you’re suitably sleepy, you can lie straight down for a restful slumber.