Too often does the average person lay their head to rest, only to be confronted by tomorrow’s tasks and worries. Instead of relaxing under the covers, you lie there, mind spinning out of control. Falling asleep takes forever and your health suffers as a result. You don’t have to let your mind spiral out of control before bed, though, because you can practice a gentle, quick workout to ease stress.
When you elevate your heart rate, even the slightest bit, before bed, you release endorphins, which are feel-good hormones. Fitness experts say that the release of these endorphins can help you fall asleep faster and contribute to healthier, sounder sleep. It isn’t always about drinking chamomile tea and reading; rather, a gentle workout is often the answer to get better nighttime Zzz’s. Below, you’ll find five moves that will help prepare your mind and body for rest.
Activating your major muscle groups for a short period can help blood rush to your muscles and may promote relaxation at night. Lie face down with your forearms on the floor, keeping your elbows directly beneath your shoulders. Keep your feet flexed so that the bottoms of your toes are touching the floor. Make sure to keep your forearms parallel with each other and have your hands in front of you, clasping them if you choose. Press into your forearms and rise up on your toes, so that your only points of contact with the floor are your toes and forearms. Your body should be in one straight line from your shoulders to your heels. Engage your lower abdomen, drawing your belly button in toward your spine, and simultaneously tighten your glutes. Hold this position for 60 seconds, breathing normally throughout, and then return to the floor.
Working to release tension in your hips, the low lunge can limit stiffness and help you get more comfortable before bed. Begin in a kneeling position with both knees on the floor. Step your left foot in front of you, keeping your left knee at a 90-degree angle. Keep your hip square and find your balance, using your right knee and shin as an anchor point. With a straight back, lean your chest forward slightly to deepen the stretch. Squeeze your right glutei and tuck your tailbone until you feel the stretch along the front of your right hip. Hold this position for 30 seconds and then return to the starting position. Repeat on the opposite side.
The Bird Dog
The bird dog works to enhance your stability and core strength. By stabilizing muscles in your back, it helps to improve range of motion, which may contribute to less pain and better sleep. Begin on your hands and knees in a tabletop position, keeping your hands directly under your shoulders and knees directly below your hips. Engage your lower abdomen, attempting to draw your belly button into your spine. Raise your left arm straight out in front of you, keeping it in line with your back. Lift your right leg straight behind you, keeping it in line with your back. Flex your foot so that your toes point to the ground and stabilize yourself in this position. Hold for 60 seconds and then switch sides.
Stretch your inner thighs and groin in the butterfly stretch. If you want to deepen the stretch, you can press down gently on your inner thighs with your elbows. Sit down on the floor with your legs extended out in front of you. If you want some extra comfort, place a small pillow under your buttocks. Bend your knees, bringing your feet in toward your groin and pressing the soles of your feet together. Keep your back straight and allow both of your knees to fall toward the floor on either side. Grab your feet with your hands and rest your elbows on your knees, pressing gently if you want to deepen the stretch.
After a long day of sitting, standing, or just being alive, resting in child’s pose is one of the most relaxing things you can do. It works to relieve tension in the lower back, inner thighs, and shoulders. Start on your hands and knees in a tabletop position, keeping your hands directly under your shoulders and knees directly below your hips. Widen your knees and bring your big toes together. Push your hips back and sit on your feet, sliding your hands forward. Lower your forehead to the floor and rest here for as long as you like. With each breath, aim to sink further into relaxation.