There are quite a few things that can help us sleep better at night, like drinking chamomile tea before bed, for example, but many people underestimate the power of stretching. A review of studies conducted in 2016 found that doing stretching movements, such as those in Tai Chi or Yoga, help improve quality of sleep, and there are several reasons for this. One is that when stretching our attention is directed to our breathing and body, rather than to the stressors of everyday life, which helps relax the body. The second is the ability to soothe tense muscles that cause discomfort during sleep, such as neck, back or shoulder muscles, or even leg muscles that often strain at night. If you want to sleep better, add some of the following stretches to your evening routine, and see how much your sleep improves.
1. Bear hug
This stretch works on the rhomboid and trapezius muscles on the upper back and helps to reduce discomfort or pain in the shoulder blades caused by poor posture, bursitis or frozen shoulder.
- Stand upright, take a deep breath and stretch your arms to the sides.
- Exhale and hug yourself tightly with your hands, with your right hand above your left hand.
- Pull your shoulders forward with your hands and take a deep breath.
- Stay that way for 30 seconds.
- When you’re done, breathe in and stretch your arms to the sides.
- Breathe in and repeat again, this time with your left hand above your right hand.
2. Neck stretch
This stretch helps reduce muscle tension that moves from head to neck to shoulder. When you perform it, keep your back straight
- Sit on a chair and put your right hand on your head – try to grab your left ear.
- Bring your right ear to your shoulder and stay in this position for 5 breaths.
- Repeat the stretch on the other side with the other hand.
- Then turn your head towards your right shoulder and keep your body moving forward.
- Stay in this position for 5 breaths.
- Repeat it on the other side as well.
- Finally, bring your chin as close to your chest as much as possible, and hold for 5 breaths.
- Return to a natural position and then let your head fall backward for 5 breaths.
3. Kneeling lat stretch
This stretching helps release back and shoulder muscles and reduces pain and discomfort in these areas. For this stretch, you’ll need a chair.
- Start squatting in front of the chair, with your feet under your buttocks – you can place a pillow under your knees if this is hard for you.
- Raise your buttocks and extend your spine while placing your arms on the chair with your palms facing down.
- Hold for 30 seconds.
- Repeat 1-3 times.
4. Child’s pose
This position is very similar to the one in the previous section, but it is a little more advanced and therefore may be difficult for some. In addition to stretching and back shoulder and neck pain relief, this posture also calms the body and helps relieve stress.
- Get down on your knees and place your feet under your buttocks.
- Now bend your body forward with a straight back until your forehead touches the floor. If this is difficult for you, place a pillow in front of you and lower your forehead to it instead.
- Send your arms forward to support your neck, or stretch them to the sides – whatever you feel comfortable with.
- Breathe deeply and hold for 5 minutes.