You might think that going to sleep is as easy as putting your body in bed and flipping off the lights—but just one sleepless night will probably rid you of that idea. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in three Americans isn’t getting the sleep they need (anywhere from seven to nine hours a night, per the CDC). The National Sleep Foundation suggests that your body needs time to shift into sleep mode, which is why it recommends doing something relaxing before bed.
While you can certainly read, take a bath, or do something similarly relaxing, you can also do some simple stretching before bed. (Stretching isn’t just for before or after a workout, after all.)
“Deep breathing and slow stretching slow the nervous system and calm the brain and body similar to meditation,” says Leslee Bender, Florida-based creator of the I Am Ageless workout program and the Bender Ball, who developed the following series of six soothing stretches. Do them right before you’re ready to crawl into bed to encourage sounder slumber, and pair them with lower back stretches, feet stretches, or even a morning workout to really protect and preserve your body.
1. Hip flexor opener
Stand about two to three feet from your bed, facing it. Place your right foot on the edge of the bed, bending the right knee and shifting weight forward slightly while keeping your left foot on the floor. Both feet should point forward. Reach your right arm (or both, if you want a little more challenge) toward the ceiling and hold 10 seconds, breathing deeply as you feel the muscles release. Switch sides and repeat.
2. Hamstring stretch
Stand about two to three feet from your bed, facing it. Place your right foot on bed and, keeping the leg straight, flex your right foot. With hands on hips, slowly hinge forward until you feel a stretch down the right hamstring. Without moving your body, rotate the right foot side to side eight times. Switch sides and repeat.
3. Standing spine twist
Stand about two to three feet from your bed, facing it. Reach your arms overhead so that you feel length in the front of your body. Moving from the hips, slowly lower the upper body toward the bed and place your hands on the bed. As you do this, lengthen your spine (just as you would if doing down-dog in yoga). Take your right hand off the bed and rotate the upper back to the right, reaching that arm upward while pressing into left palm. Hold for several deep breaths. Release to start and repeat other side.
4. Hip flexor stretch
Lie face-up on the bed with a rolled-up pillow under your right hip, with the leg extended on the bed. Reach your right arm overhead, thinking about lengthening through the right side of the body. Now point and flex the ankles eight times. Switch sides and repeat.
5. Spine twist
Lie face-up on the bed and bring your knees to your chest. Extend the right leg so it’s resting on the bed. Place your right hand over your left hand and gently guide the left knee across your body to the right. Rotate your head left until you feel a gentle stretch in the neck. Release to start and repeat on other side.
6. Happy back
Lie face-up on the bed with a pillow under your hips. Bend your knees and them above your hips. As you bring the knees toward your chest, wrap your arms around backs of your legs. Hold at least 10 seconds, continuing to breathe deeply.