Why Do You Stretch After Sleeping?

Smiling young woman lying in bed and stretching arms
A good stretch in the morning can get your body and mind ready for the day. (Image: Jupiterimages/Pixland/Getty Images)

Every morning when you wake up, instinct takes over, and you feel compelled to stretch out your body. Why do we do this? Aside from feeling good, it actually does help to wake you up. Stretching works to increase flexibility and range of motion in the muscles and joints. It also improves circulation and relieves tension.

Muscle Flexibility

After a long, restful sleep you often find yourself waking up with stiff, tight muscles. This is usually caused by lying in the same position for an extended amount of time. Upon waking, you often stretch out the kinks in your neck, back and legs, maybe even subconsciously, leaving you feeling better. When your muscles are flexible, it makes getting out of bed easier, along with performing everyday tasks.

Joint Flexibility

The main causes of morning stiffness are lack of daily physical activity, being overweight, poor diet, not sleeping properly, and a cold or damp environment, according to the Healthy Back Institute. Stretching in the morning helps improve the range of motion in the joints, as well as stiffness that often accompanies being inactive or overweight. Decreased flexibility in the joints may increase your likelihood of developing arthritis or having poor balance, which could result in injury.

Improved Circulation

Stretching in the morning dramatically improves blood circulation. A quick stretch upon waking can energize you to get out of bed. The heart rate is slowest just before rising, so when you stretch, your blood starts moving faster and circulating to the muscles in the extremities. Proper circulation helps you move and function throughout the day.

Stress Relief

Stretching helps you relieve stress and tension. Sometimes it is hard to get out of bed in the morning, especially when you know that you have a stressful day ahead. Taking a few minutes first thing in the morning to stretch will help relieve some tension and allow you to face the day more positively. To get the most out of your stretches, hold each stretch for 30 seconds to give your muscles time to lengthen, then relax and breathe normally.

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