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5 Gentle Exercises to Try Before Sleep
sleep / wellness
5 Gentle Exercises to Try Before Sleep
by BetterSleep
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Struggling to fall asleep at night? Try these gentle exercises to drift off faster andsleep better.

How Do Gentle Exercises Improve Your Sleep?

According to research from 2016, scientists have found a link between meditative movement and improved sleep quality.

The research looked at meditative movements such as yoga, tai chi, and qi gong. In addition to better sleep quality, they found that meditative movement improved overall quality of life.

So why are gentle exercises so helpful for better sleep? First, mindful movements can help you become aware of your body. This mindfulness helps reducethe anxiety that keeps you up at night. But it can also help you relax your body and release the tensions you’ve accumulated throughout your day.

What activities help you sleep?

Before we talk about gentle exercise movements that can affect sleep, we want to talk about other activities and how they may aid your ability to fall asleep faster. These activities may not help you deal with obstructive sleep apnea, but because they're relaxation exercises, they may help you fall asleep.

Breathing

Breathing is a great way to engage your body’s natural relaxation response. In return, this relaxation can make falling asleep easier! However, there are a variety of different breathing techniques out there. We want to share a few that could help your body relax and get the restful sleep it needs.

Diaphragmatic breathing

This exercise can reduce stress and increase relaxation; it follows a series of 3 simple steps:

Step one: lay down on your back, and place one hand on your chest and the other at the top of your belly. This is so your hands can feel if you’re breathing through your belly or not.

Step two: breathe through your nose and feel your belly push against your hand. Your chest and your other hand should remain still.

Step three: keep your chest still and tighten the muscles in your stomach. Exhale through your mouth with pursed lips.

This exercise is a more intermediate form of breathing. It may take some time to get used to it. Just be patient, and practice. You’re bound to get better with time and effort! But if you’re looking for a simple breathing exercise, the next one may be more suitable.

4-7-8 Breathing

This exercise follows a series of 4 simple steps:

Step one: put the tip of your tongue on the roof of your mouth behind your front teeth.

Step two: take a deep inhale through your nose for a count of 4 seconds.

Step three: hold your breath for a count of 7 seconds.

Step four: exhale for a count of 8 seconds.

Depending on your experience levels, these exercises may be too intermediate for you. If so, you can follow a more simple technique.

Try taking a few deep breaths as you’re lying in bed. Simply inhale deeply through your nose, then exhale through your mouth. Allow your breath to flow naturally and follow a pattern. There’s no need to count the seconds; just do whatever is comfortable.

This alone can help you achieve a state of calmness and relaxation that can help you unwind and destress before you hit the snooze button on your day!

Visualization

There are many forms of visualization, but today we're talking about body scans. The idea is to create slow and focused attention to different body areas. In return, this can help you release any tension built up, and it'll help you relax more and fall asleep more easily.

Start by taking a few deep breaths. You can go at your own pace or follow an exercise.

Next, close your eyes and bring your attention to different areas of your body and the sensations you may feel there. For instance, you can start with your feet. Notice any feelings or discomfort that may be there. Allow yourself to let go and release the tension.

Visualize the tension leaving your body through your breath. After you finish one area, move to the next. From your feet, you can go to your calf muscles, then your thighs, abdomen, and so on.

Progressive Muscle Relaxation

During progressive muscle relaxation (PMR), you work to tense and release muscles. This effectively relieves any tension that’s there and allows them to relax.

It’s similar to visualization because you must focus on each body part. The main difference is the actions you’ll take to release tension. During a PMR, you tense an area of your body for 5-10 seconds and breathe simultaneously.

After the time is up, you breathe out and relax the muscles. You’ll wait 10-20 seconds before moving on to the next body part.

This exercise can be as simple as following each muscle group, or you can get more precise and work to focus on individual aspects of your body, like every toe, finger, facial feature, and so on.

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5 Gentle Exercise Moments To Try Before Sleep

Try the following gentle movements before you settle down for bed tonight. You can even do some of these movements in your bed!

Side Stretch

  1. Grab a pillow.
  2. Stand comfortably with your feet shoulder-width apart and hold your pillow vertically. Let it hang on the right side of your body.
  3. Cross your left leg behind your right leg.
  4. Bend your head and upper body sideways to the right until your pillow touches the floor, and you feel the stretch across your left side.
  5. Take a long, deep breath.
  6. Come back to a neutral position.
  7. Repeat on the opposite side:
  8. Hold your pillow on the left side of your body.
  9. Cross your right leg behind your left leg.
  10. Bend your head and upper body sideways to the left until your pillow touches the floor, and you feel the stretch across your right side.
  11. Take a long, deep breath.
  12. Come back to a neutral position.
  13. Repeat two more times on each side.

Knee Lifts

  1. Grab a pillow.
  2. Stand comfortably with your feet shoulder-width apart and hold your pillow in front of you.
  3. Hug the pillow against your chest, high enough to rest your chin on it comfortably.
  4. Close your eyes and take a deep breath. Relax your head and let your neck stretch softly.
  5. Lift your right heel and bend your right knee. Slightly shift your weight to the left.
  6. Hold for 5 to 10 seconds.
  7. Bring your right heel down and repeat on the left side.
  8. Repeat 2-3 more times on each side.

Mindful Breath

  1. Use this exercise before you crawl into bed for seated exercises.
  2. Stand in front of your bed comfortably with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  3. Breathe in from your nose until your belly is full of air.
  4. Hold for a few seconds.
  5. Breathe out and release the tension in your body.
  6. Repeat for a few cycles.

Seated Forward Bend

  1. Sit down on a mat or your bed while extending your legs in front of you.
  2. Fold your hips forward and reach your arms in front of you, towards your legs.
  3. Grab onto what you can with your hands — your knees, shins, ankles, feet, or even your toes.
  4. Relax your head and neck. Tuck your chin into your chest.
  5. Breathe in and out deeply. Hold this pose for 1 to 5 minutes.

Child’s Pose

  1. Get down on your hands and knees.
  2. Sit your glutes on your heels while extending your arms forward.
  3. Rest your palms and forehead on the floor. Add a blanket, pillow, or cushion under your chest, belly, or thighs if you need support.
  4. Breathe in and out deeply. With each exhale, let yourself sink a little deeper into the position.
  5. Keep this position for 30 seconds to 5 minutes. Feel free to come back to this position in between other exercises.

How much exercise is good for sleep?

The gentle exercises we mentioned above work because they’re not vigorous exercises. However, they still work to tire the body and release any stress that may have built up throughout your day.

These exercises are best before bed. But there are also forms of exercises you can do throughout your day to promote sleep too. There are two popular forms of exercise you can take part in during the day: resistance training and aerobic exercise.

Both forms of exercise can range from light to vigorous intensity. Some different forms of resistance training include:

  • Weight lifting
  • Body-weight lifting
  • Resistance bands training

According to The Sleep Doctor, doing muscle-strengthening training can improve sleep quality. Overall, the act of burning energy with resistant training and the need for recovery can help you get better sleep.

Some forms of vigorous and moderate aerobic exercise include:

  • Running
  • Cycling
  • Walking
  • Swimming
  • Rowing

Aerobic exercise can reduce blood pressure risk of cardiovascular disease. This form of exercise is shown to be particularly effective in people with insomnia and other sleep disorders.

Is it good to exercise before sleep?

It’s not recommended to exercise directly before bedtime unless it’s a light exercise like some of the gentle movements we mentioned earlier.

If you’re going to take part in exercises like weight lifting and aerobic exercise at a moderate to vigorous intensity, it’s best to do these movements at least 90 minutes before you go to sleep.

Doing this allows your body’s endorphins levels to level off and your core body temperature to get back to levels more suitable for good sleep.

Exercise can create a rise in core body temperatures and an increased heart rate. This is detrimental to having a good night's sleep. This is because when your body prepares for sleep, it slows down your heart rate and lowers your core body temperature. Exercising does the opposite.

This is why you avoid moderate to vigorous resistance training or vigorous to moderate intensity aerobic exercise directly before bed. But overall, maintaining a workout routine is a great way to help you alleviate stress and get a natural source of "sleep medicine." Just try avoiding it close to bedtime.

Conclusion

Doing light and gentle exercise before bed won’t hurt you. It may help. We know that getting into a relaxed state before bed is important for a good night's rest. And gentle exercises could be a great way to relax and release any tension and stress from your day. It could even deter some of the side effects of sleep disorders.

However, it’s best to avoid more intense exercise before bed as it can create a lower sleep quality. If you’re going to do moderate to intense resistance training or aerobic exercise, make sure to do it during your day and far from the time you’d normally go to sleep.

Overall, exercise for sleep is best done with low intense workouts before bed and more moderate to vigorous-intensity workouts during the day.

Did you know that the BetterSleep App has several SleepMoves routines to help you drift to sleep faster?Try the app for free todayto try these gentle bedtime exercise routines.

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