Have you ever bothered to go to bed at a decent hour only to see a war of wear and tear with the clock on your bedside table? The numbers tick away silently as you try to stifle nervous legs and a racing mind that only pauses to calculate how many hours you might have if just fell asleep.
When you're tired of (literally) turning off the lights and hoping for the best, try adding this quick series of stretches to your bedtime routine. Stretching can help release muscle tension and activate the parasympathetic nervous system, the branch of the nervous system that slows the heart rate and stimulates the body to relax.
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You can cover all of these pajama-friendly stretches in less than 10 minutes (a tiny investment for a solid eight hours with your eyes closed).
Standing forward fold
This gentle stretch for the hips, hamstrings, and calves is a good place to start. With your back straight and feet hip-width apart, simply bend forward from your waist (not your hips) and slowly exhale. You can bend your knees slightly if you have tension in your back or hamstrings. If possible, bring your fingertips or palms to the floor; otherwise, cross your arms at your elbows. Extend your body from the waist every time you inhale. As you exhale, gently deepen the curve. After about a minute of deep breathing, slowly get to a standing position by hinging at your waist and maintaining a flat back.
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Reclined bound angle
While you can do this in bed, you will get a deeper stretch in your groin, hips, and chest when you are on a firm surface. With your knees bent and heels pulled in toward your pelvis, get into a sitting position. Take a pillow, body pillow, or blanket that has been folded into a rectangle and place it lengthways behind your tailbone. Sit back with your elbows bent so the pad matches the length of your spine to gently open your chest upward. Let your elbows and forearms rest on the floor. Stay in this position and take a minute or two of deep breaths before pulling your knees together and rolling onto your side. Use your hands to push yourself into a sitting position.
Legs up against the wall
If you are suffering from sore feet or swollen ankles at the end of the day, this is the place for you. Resting with your legs against the wall will stretch the hamstrings and calves slightly while allowing stagnant fluid to drain from your feet and legs. To get into this stretch, simply lie down on the floor and slide your sit bones forward until they touch a wall (it can be helpful to lie on your side first). Extend your legs so that the back of your legs are completely against the wall. Stay in this position for a few minutes before moving your legs to one side. Use your hands to push yourself into a sitting position.
The child's pose is the ultimate resting stretch. It relaxes your spine, shoulders, and neck, and gently stretches your lower back. Start in a kneeling position and spread your knees so that they are hip-width apart. As you tuck your tailbone back and down, on a deep exhale, pivot forward at your waist and rest your torso on your thighs. Let your forehead rest on the floor and extend your arms backward along your sides, palms up, along your sides. Hold here for a few breaths before gently kneeling up to sit up.
Lying spine rotation
A day of sitting, hunching, and crouching can leave your back feeling tight and tight. Create some space in your spine with this lounger. Lie on your back (you can do this in bed) and bring your knees to your chest. Hug your right knee and straighten your left leg. With your left hand, pull your right knee over your body while looking over your extended right arm. Move your hips to the right and pull your right knee closer to the floor on your left side. You should feel a deep but relaxing twist in your spine. Stay in this position and deepen the stretch with each exhale. Repeat on the other side.
After the final stretch, you should be on your back in bed and relaxed from head to toe. How convenient! Now turn off the lights, close your eyes and show the stupid clock on the bedside table who's the boss.