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Does Stretching Before Bed Help Sleep?

A woman stretches in front of a bed.

Finding yourself tossing and turning in the night? A nighttime stretch routine might be exactly what you need to ease your body and your mind.

To find out more about how stretching can help sleep, LifeSavvy spoke with Dr. Nilong Vyas at Sleepless in NOLA and Medical Review Expert at SleepFoundation.org, who explained why stretching might help improve your sleep, how you should go about building a stretching routine, and some key muscle groups to release before bed to optimize sleep. 

How Does Stretching Help Sleep?


Vyas shared that stretching before bed can help release tension and facilitate sleep if done at any point during the day or even an hour before bedtime.

Calming stretching turns on the parasympathetic nervous system, otherwise known as your “rest and digest” system, which relaxes your body and soothes your mind. Essentially, stretching before bed helps signal to your body that it’s time to relax and let go of the stresses of the day.

By incorporating a regular stretching routine before bed, you are fueling your parasympathetic nervous system and letting your body and mind know to quiet which can lead to more restful sleep.

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How Should You Stretch Before Sleep?

A woman stretches in a bed.
Alena Ozerova/Shutterstock.com

So, you know stretching before bed can help improve your sleep quality, but how should you do it before bed?

We recommend creating a stretching routine in two phases. The first should use your carpet, a yoga mat, or a soft surface, and the second should use your bed for phase two. Starting by stretching on a slightly firmer surface will give you space to fully lengthen your back and hamstrings, and then, finishing your routine on your bed will help to relax you more and fully prepare you for a night of sleep.

As for your stretches, you’ll want to do a progression of stretching, otherwise known as a form of progressive muscle relaxation. This method is effective because when your muscles fully relax, you’ll move from a state of being alert to resting, which activates your parasympathetic nervous system.

Plus, Vyas noted that stretching on the bed provides an accessible option to ensure consistency without the potential to skip your stretching routine.

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What Stretches Are Good for Sleep?

A woman stretches will sitting on a bed.
F8 studio/Shutterstock.com

Vyas recommended lengthening a few of your larger muscle groups before bed to optimize sleep. Progressively releasing the muscles of the back, the glute muscles, and the hip flexors specifically will help unwind your body for optimal rest. These pre-sleep stretches recommended by Vyas progressively target these areas of your body in a gentle way.

Gentle Down Dog

Vyas said to start with a gentle down dog to facilitate length in the spine and larger back muscles and to stretch the hamstrings. For the first stretch, we recommend finding a mat, carpet, or soft surface.

Find a comfortable standing position with your legs hips-width distance apart or wider. Take a deep breath in, tuck your chin to your chest and begin to roll your body down towards the floor. Bend your knees generously. Plant your palms in front of you on the floor and begin to walk your feet back until your hips and high, your chest is low, and your head and neck are relaxed. Try to equally distribute your body weight between your hands and your feet. It’s ok to keep your knees bent. Breathe deeply 5-7 times.

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Supported Child’s Pose

For this exercise, we recommend using two pillows from your bed to provide additional support and comfort. You can find supported child’s pose on your soft mat surface, or even on your bed if that’s more suitable for you. Supported child’s pose is designed to relieve low back tension.

Find a kneeling position your knees hips width distance apart or greater, and your heels together. Place your first pillow long way in between your legs, and your second pillow long way in front of you. Sit your hips back on your heels and on the pillow, and lengthen your upper body forward in front of you, on top of your other pillow. Keep inching your palms forward until you feel a stretch in your lower back. Breathe deeply 5-7 times.

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Supportive pillows to use during your night time stretch routine.

Happy Baby

For happy baby stretch, you can continue to stretch on your soft mat space, or on your bed. Happy Baby targets the outer hip and larger glute muscles by encouraging external rotation and open hips. You do not need a pillow for this stretch

Lay on your back and pull your knees towards your armpits. Reach for the inner or outer arches of your feet and pull your feet towards your armpits. Keep your pelvis and low back rooted to the floor, or your bed. Gently rock from side to side. Breathe deeply 5-7 times.

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Supported Hip Flexor Stretch

Our last stretch recommendation for this bedtime routine is a supported hip flexor stretch. If you have chosen to stretch on your bed for the other exercises, we recommend you stay there. If you have been on your soft mat space, we recommend you find this stretch on your bed to fully relax your body and optimize your sleep as much as possible. You will need 1-2 thin pillows for this stretch, or 1 very fluffy pillow. As indicated by the title, this stretch releases your hip flexors, the front sides of your hips.

Place your pillow (or 2 pillows) underneath your pelvis and lay on your back. Pull your right knee into your chest and lengthen your left leg overtop of your pillows. Think about compressing your right side and lengthening your left side completely. Breathe deeply 5-7 times. Reverse the stretch.

Adding a stretching routine before sleep is proven to help improve rest! If you find yourself with morning body tension, Vyas said adding a similar stretching routine in the morning as well before starting your day can help.

Jenn Vigh Jenn Vigh
Jenn is a pilates and yoga instructor, an aerialist, and a travel blogger with 5 years of experience in nonprofit communications, and over 10 years of experience writing, teaching, training, performing and collaborating with creatives across the globe. For the last 6 years, her American home-base has been Austin, TX, where she’s worked with the aerial dance company, Blue Lapis Light, and enjoyed the sunshine with her world-traveling yorkipoo, Sheila. Read Full Bio »
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