We've all been there: Bedtime rolls around, and suddenly your head starts spinning with worries and tomorrow's to-dos. Before you know it, you're too hyped up to hit the hay.
When your thoughts spiral before bed, sometimes the best thing you can do to clear your mind and ease stress is a quick, gentle workout.
Here's why: "Elevating your heart rate even slightly can release the feel-good hormones endorphins," says Kemma Cunningham, CPT, a group fitness instructor and personal trainer at Life Time Bridgewater. "This can help you fall asleep faster" and get better quality zzzs, Cunningham says. Below, she demonstrates five moves that will get your body and mind ready for rest.
- Lie face down with your forearms on the floor and your elbows directly beneath your shoulders. Keep your feet flexed with the bottoms of your toes on the floor.
- Keep your forearms parallel to each other and avoid clasping your hands in front of you.
- Press into your forearms and rise up on your toes so that only your forearms and toes touch the floor. Your body should hover a few inches off the floor in a straight line from shoulders to feet.
- Draw your navel toward your spine and tighten your glutes.
- Look at the floor to keep your head in a neutral alignment and breathe normally. Hold for 60 seconds.
2. Low Lunge
- Start in a kneeling position, then place your left foot in front of you with your knee at 90 degrees.
- Keeping your hips square to the mat and maintaining a flat back, lean your chest forward toward your left knee, deepening the stretch in your right thigh and hip.
- Hold this low lunge position for 30 seconds, then repeat on the opposite leg.
A lot of us hold stress and tension in our lower body, especially our hips. Luckily, the low lunge can limit this stiffness, which may help you feel more comfortable and lull you to sleep.
“The low lunge releases tension in your hips and stretches your hamstrings, quads and groin,” Cunningham says.
3. Bird Dog
- Start in tabletop position on your hands and knees.
- Maintain a neutral spine and press firmly into the ground, palms at shoulder-width distance.
- Draw your navel into your spine, then lift your left arm straight out in front of you to shoulder height, palm facing inward.
- Lift your right leg straight behind you to hip height, flexing your foot so that your toes point at the ground.
- Hold this position for two seconds and repeat using the opposite hand and leg.
- Continue alternating for 60 seconds.
“The bird dog is one of the best exercises for core strength and stability,” Cunningham says. Plus, it strengthens the stabilizing muscles in your back (aka less back pain) and improves mobility and range of motion (aka looser, relaxed muscles), which all contribute to better sleep.
4. Butterfly Stretch
- Sit on the floor with your legs straight in front of you. You can place a small pillow under your butt to make it more comfortable.
- Bend your knees and bring your feet in toward your groin, pressing the soles of your feet together.
- Sit tall, keeping your feet together as you allow both knees to drop toward the floor on either side. Hold your feet with your hands and rest your elbows on your knees.
You should feel this stretch on the inside of your groin and thighs. You can deepen the stretch by pressing down gently on each inner thigh with your elbows.
5. Child's Pose
- Start in a tabletop position, on all fours with wrists under your shoulders.
- Bring your big toes together.
- Push your hips back on your feet, then slide your hands forward, lowering your forehead to the ground.
After a long day, child’s pose is the perfection prescription for stellar slumber as “it relieves tension and stress in the lower back and inner thighs,” Cunningham says.