Three bedtime stretches for sounder sleep

Could you use a sleep aid? If you suffer from a restless mind and muscles, securing a sufficient amount of sleep can be a nightmare.

Sleep is vital to your health. When the lights turn off, your body turns on its healing abilities by repairing tissue damage, slowing your heart rate, and recharging your brain to prepare for the day ahead.

If you want to summon the sandman, try this simple stretching sequence before bed. (The following exercises can be performed in bed if you have a firm mattress; otherwise, hit a carpeted floor or yoga mat for more support.)

Make bedtime the best time by stretching yourself to sleep.

Cobra. Proper breathing plays a major role in sleep quality. This pose stretches your intercostal muscles, which line the ribs, to help expand the lungs and chest.

  • Begin by lying on your stomach and placing your palms next to your chest. Keep your elbows tucked close to your ribs.
  • Inhale deeply as you push through your hands, elevating your head and chest off the bed. Hold for 15 seconds. Try to keep your hips grounded throughout the duration of this stretch.
  • Slowly return to the starting stance. Repeat two to three times. 

Reclining goddess. This heavenly pose makes for happy hips and a restful night’s sleep. If you spend the majority of your day in a seated position, chances are you have tight hip flexors and groin muscles. This stretch helps open the hip joint, providing for a better range of motion during physical and daily activity.

  • Begin in a seated position, bringing the soles of your feet together so your legs form a diamond shape. Let your knees fall to the sides. For beginners, roll two towels under your knees for added support. The more you practice, the easier it will be to stretch into this position.
  • Slowly lower your upper body until your back is resting completely on the bed.
  • Extend your arms by your sides with both palms facing up. Relax into this stretch, breathing evenly for two to three minutes. 

Corpse. Turning a busy mind off can be difficult. Stretching and meditative exercises such as the corpse pose help calm the brain by resetting the nervous system and melting muscle tension.

  • Start in a supine position with your palms facing up. Your arms should be angled about 45 degrees from your body with your legs resting hip-width apart. If needed, roll a towel and place it beneath your knees or lower back for added support.
  • Close your eyes. Take several slow, deep breaths to relax while you scan your body for any stressed, rigid muscles starting at your forehead. If your eyes feel strained, release the tension. Move down to your chest, arms, stomach, thighs, toes — if any of these areas feel tense, allow your body to release it.
  • Stay in this peaceful state for as long as you need. There is no time limit for this exercise. 

Ashley B. Greenblatt is a certified personal trainer and wellness coach. To learn more, visit ashleyblakefitness.com.