You, too, may have a routine, after a busy day, to get ready to wind down before going to bed. Many people unwind by watching TV. Others find that taking a hot bath or shower helps them relax. Jumping into a hot tub isn’t a bad way to relax, either, if you happen to own one.
Whatever your mode of winding down, whether drinking a cup of hot milk or having some “sleepy-time” tea, a stretching routine can make things even better.
Stretching elongates muscles tightened by sustained positions during the day. This is important if you sit at a desk, ride around in a car or truck or work while standing bent over like, for example, a mechanic or assembly line worker.
If you take a hot shower or bath, stretching is best done afterwards. If you watch TV, the 30-second commercials can help you time the length of your stretches.
Hold each stretch for 30 seconds, which makes your routine time-efficient. Most commercial breaks last 4-5 minutes, so you can do 8-10 30-second stretches in each break.
As always, check with your doctor before starting any exercise routine. Never strain. Don’t do more than your muscles can comfortably handle. Move slowly, deliberately. Remember that you’re trying to wind down, and this isn’t a race to win.
- First, if you are able, kneel on the carpet or a mat and sit back on your heels. Try to relax and feel your seat bones pressing down on your heels. If this causes discomfort in your thighs or knees, try placing a rolled blanket or towel between your seat bones and heels. Hold this position for 30 seconds.
- Next, stretch forward, reaching with arms and hands on the floor in front of you. Feel the stretch of your back and spine. Hold for 30 seconds. Don’t hold your breath. Instead, use your breath to deepen the stretch, relaxing more into it as you exhale.
- Next, move forward and lie on your stomach. Reach back and grasp your right ankle with your right hand. Gently bring your ankle to your buttock, stretching gently and slowly. Hold for 30 seconds. Switch sides and repeat on your left side for 30 seconds.
- Now sit on the floor or mat with both legs straight in front of you. If your knees aren’t resting comfortably on the floor, your hamstrings or back thigh muscles are tight, and you need to lean back against something stable until they do lie flat (lean back against the bottom of a couch or a recliner), and you still feel a gentle stretch. Hold for 30 seconds. If your hamstrings aren’t tight, you may need to reach forward from your waist until you feel a gentle stretch in the back of your legs. Hold this stretch for 30 seconds. At the end of 30 seconds, reach forward again, still keeping your knees relaxed and down to deepen the stretch. Use your breath as before and reach forward as you exhale. Do this for the remainder of the commercial break, relaxing and stretching forward every time the commercial changes.
These simple four stretches can help your muscles relax and get you ready for a better night’s sleep.