Stretching Before Bed: Good or Bad Idea?

Stretching Before Bed

Are you looking for non-medicinal ways to calm yourself down before bed? 

A lot of people these days feel stressed out and anxious right before going to bed. It is not uncommon for city dwellers to spend 1-2 hours, either just lying wide awake on their bed or tossing and turning, trying to fall asleep.

Maybe the excess energy within the body is desperate for an outlet. Or you still haven’t learned how to connect your mind to your body so you can fall asleep in harmony. 

With regular exercise, some people manage to let go of the excess energy trapped within their bodies. They engage in strength training exercises like weight lifting or prefer aerobic workouts like spinning or running on a treadmill. Both benefit the body in their own way but do not contribute much when it comes to improving the quality of sleep. 

To fall (and stay) asleep at night, you need to put your mind and body in a state of tranquility. Having said that, we don’t recommend you to consume a sleep-inducing drug or a sedative. 

Stretching is the best way to relax your mind and body before going to bed. When you perform light stretches before going to bed, your body not only loosens up but also builds a connection with your mind. 

Is Stretching Before Bed Good?

When asked about stretching, a Harvard-based physical therapist David Nolan said, “A lot of people don’t understand that stretching has to happen on a regular basis. It should be daily.” 

Not only David, but several other fitness experts also claim that stretching helps in restoring flexibility, banishing pain, igniting your sex drive, etc. But is stretching before bed good? What if it gets you pumped up and hopped-up before bed?

To answer your question – Yes! Stretching before going to bed is safe and advantageous for the overall health of an individual. However, it is essential not to exert yourself too much. 

  • Perform light and low-intensity stretches. 
  • Body parts like shoulders, hips, neck, lower back, and hamstrings can immensely profit when mildly stretched out before going to bed. 
  • Lastly, make sure you do not have any pre-existing injuries before beginning a stretching routine.

Benefits of Stretching Before Bed 

1) Reduces the Frequency and Severity of Nocturnal Leg Cramps in Older Adults

It is natural for your body to get weary as you age. Older adults are more likely to suffer from calf and hamstring cramps while performing activities of daily living. But did you know that older people can also experience leg cramps in their sleep? This condition is known as nocturnal leg cramps. Individuals with this condition suffer from “interrupted sleep”–waking up 4-5 times throughout the night.

A Dutch study revealed that stretching before going to bed can lessen the frequency and severity of nocturnal leg cramps in older adults. Researchers in this study investigated 80 participants aged over 55 years with nocturnal leg cramps. For six weeks, they were asked to perform calf and leg stretches before bed. The results of this study showed that nighttime stretching does benefit older adults with nocturnal leg cramps.

2) Improves the Quality of Your Sleep

Nighttime stretching doesn’t have to be something intricate. You don’t necessarily have to indulge in stretches commonly performed by runners or gymnasts. Physical, mental, and spiritual practices like Yoga and Tai chi can also help you relax and unwind before sleep. Both Yoga and Tai chi incorporate the fundamental principles of mindfulness. 

Research shows that a regular practice of mindfulness techniques improves the quality of sleep and reduces daytime impairment. 

Mindfulness is a mind-body medicine intervention that involves consciously bringing one’s attention to experiences occurring in the present moment without judgment. Yoga and Tai chi, when performed at nighttime, can help you get outside of your mind and into your body. 

3) Increased Circulation of Blood

A few minutes of stretching before bedtime increases the circulation of blood to all parts of your body. This is important, particularly for those who live a sedentary lifestyle. It is prevalent for an office goer to spend 8-10 hours of the day sitting in one position. 

When you sit for that long, some parts of your body like lower back and neck do not get enough support and, as a result, get deprived of fresh blood. This is where stretching before bed comes into play.

With every stretch you perform before going to bed, you stimulate blood flow to the muscles in a specific part of your body. Blood carries essential elements like oxygen and nutrients to the muscles. 

Moreover, the proper flow of blood throughout the body also makes sure the waste materials are flushed out from the body. Hence, stretching before bed is necessary.

Stretching Exercises Before Bed

Before you begin learning the stretching exercises before bed, it is essential to understand the fact that you don’t have to stretch every day. It is perfectly fine to skip the stretching session if you feel too tired or feel too much tension in your muscles. 

Stretching out on days when you don’t feel ready may lead to a soft tissue injury (STI). Hence, listen to your body and learn to acknowledge the signals it provides.

For Beginners – Stretching Exercises Before Bed

1) Neck Stretches

It is best to begin the nighttime stretching routine from the top portion of your body. Neck stretches are beneficial for those who spend their day staring at a computer screen while sitting on a chair. Follow the below-mentioned steps.

  • Sit on a chair with your back straight. Preferably sit on a chair with a firm base; avoid sitting on a bed with a fluffy mattress. 
  • Bring your chin down until it touches the upper portion of your chest. Hold this pose for about 5-7 seconds and get back to your default position.
  • Look toward the ceiling. Make sure your spine is erect, and you are not using your hand to support your upper body. Keep your hands comfortably on your knees. Hold this pose for about 5-7 seconds and get back to your default position.
  • Next, keep your head straight and tilt it toward your left. Hold this pose for 5-7 seconds. The tilt should be no more than 30 degrees. Do not touch your ear to your shoulder. 
  • Repeat the same tilting pose to your right side. 

2) Child’s Resting Pose

Child’s pose is a pose (asana) performed in hatha yoga. In yoga, it is intended to relax the practitioner in between two challenging poses. It also helps your lower back stretch and rejuvenates. In yoga, it is known as balasana

  • Sit on your heels with knees touching the ground and look straight. Gently move ahead and form a table pose. Make sure your body weight is equally distributed between all four limbs. 
  • Exhale and lower your hips towards your heels. Keep your hands in front of you while touching the ground.
  • Next, place your forehead on the floor. During this step, make sure your shoulders are loose and wide apart. Feel the stretch in your shoulders, hips, abdomen, and legs. Breathe deeply 4-5 times while being in this position.
  • Get back to your default position and repeat the same pose 4-5 times. With each repetition, you will feel a deeper stretch.

Advanced Stretching Exercises Before Bed

1) Runner’s Lunge 

Coming to the advanced part of nighttime stretches, runners lunge, when performed the right way, helps you open your hips and hip flexors. To perform a perfect runner’s lunge, you do need to be in reasonably good shape. For an obese person, there is a chance of a hip or hamstring injury – and this is the reason why we think this stretch is advanced.

  • Like the child’s pose, runner’s lunge is another stretch that you can begin with being in a tabletop position. Staring from a tabletop position gives you more stability. 
  • The second step is to move your left leg forward while keeping the right leg tucked back with knee and toe touching the ground. 
  • Next, use your hands as support to lift yourself. Lift the right knee keeping the toe in contact with the ground. Also, make sure your left thigh is maintained at a right angle with your leg. Hold the pose for about 5-7 seconds while even breathing deeply. 
  • Get back to the tabletop position and repeat the same steps with your other leg. Perform 5-6 sets of runner’s lunge before going to bed.

2) Legs up the Wall Pose

Stretching Before Bed

“Legs up the wall pose” is the next advanced stretching exercise before bed. This pose is intended to relax and stretch your glutes and hamstrings. Usually recommended for pregnant women, this pose is also a great night time stretch. You can benefit from it irrespective of gender.

  • For this stretch, you will need to place a yoga mat near a wall. The first step is to lie on your back with your knees tucked in. 
  • Next, keeping your head, spine, and lower back in alignment, extend both of your legs up on the wall. You can also use a pillow or a folded blanket (in case you have lower back issues). 
  • While lifting your legs supported by the wall, try to breathe and relax. Stay in this position for a minute and then tuck your knees back in.
  • Repeat the steps mentioned above 5-6 times before going to bed. 

Conclusion

What’s great about these nighttime stretches is that you can see the results from the first night itself. To begin enjoying deeper, more restful sleep, you don’t have to wait for a week or even 2-3 sessions.  

However, to develop a strong body and mind connection, you must perform the bedtime exercises mentioned above as a routine. Lastly, do not believe in myths. Stretching is not just a warm-up routine. It can be done even before bedtime.