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5 Bedtime Stretches That Will Help You Actually Get to Sleep

Stretch away the stress of the day.


Read when you’ve got time to spare.

woman in sphinx pose

Brianne Wills

Anyone else not sleeping, like, at all right now? Yeah, you’re not alone. Between the stress and fear that so many of us are feeling and the complete blow to our usual routines, a lot of us are losing sleep. We can’t fix everything keeping you up at night, but we can offer one thing that might help ease the transition from your days to your nights (especially if your current bedtime routine consists of just changing out of your day pj’s into your night pj’s). Hopefully this short bedtime stretch series can be a calming transition that helps you get ready for bed and leave the stress of the day behind.

“Static stretching is an ideal way to unwind and de-stress after a long day,” registered yoga teacher Jessica Matthews, doctor of behavioral health, assistant professor of kinesiology at Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego, and author of Stretching to Stay Young, tells SELF.

With static stretching, she explains, your muscle is stretched to the point of mild tension or discomfort, and then held without movement for an extended period of time, usually about 30 seconds (or longer if it feels good). While static stretching isn’t the safest way to prep your body for your actual workout—as we reported previously, research suggests that it may have a negative impact on muscle strength and inhibit explosive movements (like jumping and sprinting)—it’s super helpful for relaxing your mind and body.

That’s because the slow, purposeful movement provides the perfect opportunity to breathe slowly and focus on your breath, Matthews says.

“Slow, rhythmic, diaphragmatic breathing in and out through the nose allows for enhanced relaxation, as this type of mindful breathing elicits the relaxation response,” says Matthews. Our bodies’ relaxation response helps counter the physiological effects of stress by decreasing its hallmark symptoms, like high blood pressure, muscle tension, and high respiration rate, she adds.

In the long-term, rituals like nightly bedtime stretches and regular meditation can also be great for managing stress and all of the potential health consequences that come along with it.

“Performing the yoga-inspired stretches below along with mindful breathing provides an opportunity for both the mind and body to relax in order to set the stage for a restful and rejuvenating night’s sleep,” says Matthews. Think of it as a moving meditation.

On that note, your breath does play an important role in how relaxing these stretches will be—consider it your guide for stretch intensity. “If at any point you find that you are restricting or holding your breath when performing a stretch, use that as a cue to reduce the intensity of the stretch to the point where you can once again breathe naturally and freely,” Matthews says.

Oh, and you might want to add a hot bath or shower before your stretching regimen, she suggests. Not only will it seriously up the relaxation factor, but it’s safer and more effective to stretch muscles that are a little warm, she says.

By taking the time—just five minutes!—to do these bedtime stretches and wind down before you go to sleep, you may find it’s a bit easier to let go of the stress of the day and drift off to dreamland.

Demoing the moves are Caitlyn Seitz (1 and 2), a New York–based group fitness instructor and singer/songwriter; Shanna Tyler (3 and 5), a New York–based yoga instructor; and Charlee Atkins (GIF 4), a certified strength-and-conditioning specialist.


Katie Thompson

Child’s Pose

  •     Kneel on your mat with your knees hip-width apart and your feet together behind you. Take a deep breath in and, as you exhale, lay your torso over your thighs.
  •     Try to lengthen your neck and spine by drawing your ribs away from your tailbone and the crown of your head away from your shoulders.
  •    Rest your forehead on the ground, with your arms extended out in front of you.
  •     Hold for 30–60 seconds.
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Katie Thompson

Thread the Needle

  •     Start on all fours with your hands under your shoulders and hips over your knees.
  •     Reach your right arm underneath and across your body with your palm facing up.
  •     Bend your left elbow as you gently lean into your right side; you should feel a stretch in the back of your right shoulder.
  •     Hold for 30 seconds. Repeat on the other side.

Brianne Wills

Sphinx Pose

  •     Lie on your stomach with your legs straight out behind you.
  •     Place your elbows under your shoulders and your forearms on the floor as you lift your chest up off the floor.
  •     Press your hips and thighs into the floor and think about lengthening your spine while keeping your shoulders relaxed.
  •     Sit up just enough to feel a nice stretch in your lower back. Don’t hyperextend, and stop immediately if you start to feel any discomfort or pain.
  •     Hold for 30–60 seconds.

Savanna Ruedy

Knee-to-Chest Stretch

  • Lie on your back with both legs extended.
  • Pull your right knee into your chest, while keeping the left leg straight and your lower back pressed into the floor.
  • Hold for 30 seconds. Repeat on the other side.

Brianne Wills

Supine Twist

  •     Lie on your back and hug your knees into your chest, then drop both knees over to one side as you twist your torso in the opposite direction.
  •     Try to keep your knees and hips in line with each other as you draw them toward the floor, and keep your chest as square to the ceiling as you can.
  •     Hold for 30 seconds. Repeat on the other side.

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This post originally appeared on SELF and was published April 7, 2020. This article is republished here with permission.

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