How well are you sleeping?
A good indication is how you feel the next morning and through the next day. Groggy, achy, stressed can all be signs that while you may be asleep, you aren’t achieving quality sleep.
Now, what does your bedtime routine look like?
If it’s clean your teeth, change your clothes, and stare at your phone until you can’t hold your eyes open any longer, we have a suggestion. Swap the phone for even a minimal stretch routine and you’ll see a shift.
We know all of the tricks for convincing our bodies to fall asleep at night - cool the room, drink chamomile tea, take a hot shower. The piece many of us are missing, and all of us could benefit from, is a bedtime stretch or yoga sesh. It’s a chance to tell your brain it’s time to stop and wind down without other distractions that actually keep the brain working. It’s a chance to slow and steady your breathing, release tension, and refocus yourself physically and emotionally away from stress and burdens from the day.
A comprehensive review of 17 research studies around “meditative movement” found that those who stretch before bed improve the quality of their sleep, improve overall physical performance, reduce depression, and improve overall quality of life.
You could simply choose 2 or 3 stretches for a brief five-minute recovery session. Just hold each position on each side of your body for 30-60 seconds. Work out the tight spots and then crawl into bed...without your phone or TV! Here are some popular stretches that are conducive to sleep:
- Thread the Needle
- Figure 4
- Happy Baby
- Shavasana/Corpse Pose
- Child’s Pose
- Legs up the Wall
- Shoulder Rolls
- Bear Hug
- Forward Fold
Alternatively, follow a bedtime-focused yoga practice, like those on the SarahBethYoga channel on YouTube. She offers (for free!) a number of relaxing yoga practices in 10, 20, or 30 minute videos that will wind down your mind and body and nearly lull you right to sleep.
Or, really mix it up with pre-zzz tai chi, a gentle flow of constant movement with low impact on joints and muscles. Included in the meditative movement research, this ancient Chinese practice contributes to better sleep habits, and so much more. The effects can improve balance, something we lose as we age, decreases mortality risk as much as someone who walks or jogs regularly, and those with osteoarthritis saw symptom improvement after 12 consistent weeks. There are even cognitive function benefits.
Get into your jammies and find some zen in the home stretch of your evening. Even a modest effort has proven results. But like anything, the more you put into this, the bigger the bounty of positive of sleep and other health benefits you’ll reap.You may also like: