A daytime exercise routine can help us feel more energetic during the day so we rest better at night. Additionally, it was previously thought that exercising shortly before bed interrupted our sleep. However, according to a study published in a 2018 article of Sports Medicine, this is not exactly true. The study debunked this myth, suggesting that some exercise one hour before bed was not harmful-so long as it's light and not too vigorous of an activity. In fact, they discovered that not only was it not harmful, but that it had many benefits, allowing people to fall asleep quickly and sleep deeper. From light stretching to massages, certain exercises can give you a deeper sleep. So, as you slip into some cozy sleepwear, here are five gentle exercises to do before bed.
Five Light Exercises for Better Sleep
With this recent research in mind, why not practice some light exercises for your own bedtime routine? Take the low-key exercises listed below and incorporate one or a few an hour or 30 minutes before bed to reduce everyday stressors.
1. PilatesPilates offers several gentle exercises for better sleep, such as the roll down. To try out the roll down, follow these instructions:
- Stand tall (against a wall in some variations) and align your feet directly under your hips. Keep hands to the side with the shoulders relaxed.
- Next, use your abdominal muscles to bend forward slowly.
- Allow the arms to dangle freely and breathe deeply.
- Try to touch the floor, holding the pose for a few seconds.
- In the same slow motion, and using your ab muscles again, roll yourself back up in reverse.
Much like Pilates, yoga offers many more wonderful gentle light exercises-referred to as asanas-you can do before bed. One of these is the wide-knee child's pose, or balasana, which offers a calmness. Put on some comfortable yoga pants, grab your mat and begin this soothing exercise.
- Kneeling on the floor or mat, bring your big toes together until they touch.
- Keeping your big toes touching, separate your knees toward the mat's edges (or as far as possible toward your hips should you have a hip or knee injury).
- Simultaneously exhale and sink your torso onto your thighs.
- Position your arms beside you, palms facing upward, and relax. This position is important as it widens and releases tension along the shoulder blades.
- Next, reach your hands forward, keeping the palms down, and press your forehead to the mat.
- Roll your head gently from side to side, releasing tension in the brow.
- Remember to take slow, steady breaths through the nose throughout this pose.
3. StretchingStretching is something we should all do before bed. It feels great and gets the blood flowing just enough. But there are some stretches better than others. Use this simple stretch for a deeper sleep.
- Resting on the floor or bed, place your legs together in front of you, keeping them flat and outstretched.
- Slowly lean forward, bending the torso, and reach for your toes.
- Hook your big toe if you can, and hold the position for up to 30 seconds. You should feel your hamstring stretching.
- If you can't reach the toe on the bed, move to the floor for a flatter surface. Practice this stretch for a few nights and you'll reach that toe. (Okay, maybe not if you're expecting.)
4. Relaxation ExercisesAll kidding aside, expecting moms can find it challenging, if not impossible, to do some of these stretches and positions. So if this is you, follow these steps for a basic relaxation exercise.
- In bed, curl the toes on each foot, holding for a few seconds, and then relaxing them.
- Next, focus on the calf muscles, tensing and relaxing the same way.
- You can see a pattern here, so follow through by working your way up until you reach the shoulders.
- Once at the shoulders, release the day's tension and melt into bed.
Some of us need some quiet reflection to relieve the stress and the anxiety of the day. And for this, meditation is a time-honored and tested method. Practicing meditation doesn't require much. Follow these simple steps:
- Dim the lights in a quiet room and seat yourself into a comfortable position. Use a pillow if necessary.
- Close your eyes and breathe deeply, inhaling through the nose and exhaling through the mouth.
- Try to block out any distractions and clear your mind of any thoughts. Focus only on your breath. If this is your first time meditating, it's important to know this is why meditation is a practice.
- Continue to focus on your breath, doing so for 25 minutes if possible. Over time, it will get easier but try for 10 minutes first, increasing as you go.