You’ve got your sleepy tea in hand and those essential oils are diffused AF — think you’re ready for bed? Close. You should also try stretching before bed.
Stretching before catching Zzz’s is a simple, relaxing way to get better sleep.
We’ve narrowed down the best nighttime stretches to throw into your bedtime ritual. Get ready for a sound snooze.
A 2016 analysis of several studies suggested there’s a link between meditative movements (think yoga and tai chi) and better sleep. And this boost in sleep quality was linked to a better quality of life, which is pretty major.
How is this possible? It’s probably a combo of things. Stretching helps you get in tune with your body and your breath instead of focusing on every annoying thing that happened that day.
Body awareness can also guide you to mindfulness, which isn’t just a cute self-care hashtag but has actually been found to help foster healthier sleep.
Stretching has physical benefits too: It helps us score some relief from muscle aches, tension, and distracting leg cramps that may happen during sleep.
Make sure your bedtime stretches are gentle and vibey, not workout-level extreme. Intense movement can keep you awake, and that’s not what we’re going for here.
1. Bear hug
Upper back and shoulder probs from bad WFH posture? This stretch targets the muscles in your upper back as well as any shoulder blade irritation or pain.
Stand tall and open your arms out big and wide while taking a nice inhale. Exhale as you hug yourself (aw!), with right arm over left arm. Breathe deeply while gently pulling shoulders forward (don’t get tight and push your shoulders up).
Hold this for 30 seconds before releasing on an inhale and opening arms back up wide. Exhale again and repeat with your left arm on top this time.
2. Neck stretch with head rolls
If you’re looking for relief from head, shoulder, and neck tension, this move is for you. Be sure to keep the best posture you’ve got throughout the entire stretch! And never pull your neck down — let gravity and the weight of your hand lead the stretch.
Take a seat or stand up tall. Place right hand on the top of your head or reach for your left ear (dealer’s choice). Softly move right ear toward right shoulder. Hold this pose for 5 nice breaths, then gently remove your hand and straighten your neck to return to the starting position. Repeat on the other side.
Give your neck some extra love and shake things out. Let chin fall slowly down to chest, then rotate your head to the left side, back, right side, and chest for a few breaths. Repeat in the opposite direction.
3. Child’s Pose
This yoga staple is ideal for getting in touch with your breath, relaxing your bod, and reducing stress. It’s also great for working out that back, shoulder, and neck tension.
Kneel on the floor and sit back on your heels. Bend forward at hips and fold over, resting forehead on the floor. Extend arms in front of you. If you need a little extra hip support, grab a pillow to place between your thighs.
While holding this pose, take some deep breaths, noticing any uncomfortable areas or back tightness. Hold for as long as it feels good (up to 5 minutes), or use this pose as a stretch in between other moves.
4. Seated forward bend
This one’s great for loosening up your shoulders, spine, and hamstrings while also giving your back a nice stretch.
Sit with legs extended in front of you. Gently engage core so spine can lengthen as you press your booty into the floor. Bend at hips to fold forward, stretching arms out in front of you. Keep head relaxed and chin tucked into chest.
Hold this position for up to 5 minutes.
5. Legs-Up-the-Wall Pose
This restorative yoga pose is ideal for relieving back, neck, and shoulder tension. Get your Zen on and pretend you’re walking on the ceiling, because, you know, why not?
Sit with your right side against a wall. Lie back on the floor while swinging legs up against the wall. It’s fine if your hips are against the wall or a few inches away — whatever distance is most comfortable. You can always toss a pillow under your hips if you want a boost or just some added comfort.
Rest your arms however you’d like while you stay in this position for up to 5 minutes.
6. Butterfly Pose
This one is for those tight hips and inner thighs! Be gentle in this stretch and let your body lean into it (don’t force it). You’ll be going “ahhh” in no time.
Sit up with spine and head aligned, bottoms of feet facing each other, and knees out to the sides. Grab the tops of feet, engage core, and gently lean forward at hips. Make sure back is straight as you lower your elbows to rest against your inner thighs before softly pushing thighs down.
Hold the pose for 15–30 seconds, continuing to press down on your thighs as long as it’s comfortable. Release and relax for 30 seconds. You can repeat these steps 2–4 times if you’d like.
7. Seated side stretch
Give your sides some love before you snooze. Prepare to feel this one in your abs and lower back too.
Sit cross-legged on the floor (or on your bed if you prefer!) with back straight and head and spine aligned. Rest hands at your sides. Press one hand into the floor and engage core as you reach your other arm over your head. Slowly bend torso to the side as you reach with the arm above your head.
Hold for 15–30 seconds, then relax for another 30 seconds. Repeat 2–4 times on each side if you want more.
8. Figure 4 stretch
This is a great post-running stretch, but it can also help limber you up before bedtime. Say goodbye to a tight booty, hips, and thighs.
Lie faceup on the floor or your bed, keeping a nice flat back. Bend both legs and place right shin just above left knee (your legs will look like a 4). Grasp your left thigh with both hands, softly pulling knee toward chest. Hold for 20 seconds.
You can do this 5 times on each side before coming back to the starting position.
9. Knee to chest
Keep it on the floor (or bed) for another easy lying-down stretch. This classic move targets your hips and lower back.
Lie faceup with your legs extended. Keep left leg on the floor and slowly pull right thigh toward chest.
Hold for 20 seconds, then repeat on the other side. You can repeat this 5 times per side.
10. Spinal twist
Do the twist to get that whole upper body ready for some Zzz’s. You’ll feel this stretch in your core, chest, shoulders, and entire back.
Lie faceup and bend knees a little deeper than 90 degrees at your hips, making sure knees and feet are together. Extend arms to the sides to form a T-shape, keeping hips and shoulders in alignment.
Keep head and spine in a nice straight line as you engage core and twist your bent legs to the right, resting them on the floor. At the same time, turn your head to face left.
Hold this pose for 15–30 seconds before returning to the starting position and repeating on the other side. If you need more stretch, repeat up to 3 times on each side.
11. Kneeling lat stretch
This stretch gets your back muscles and shoulders loosey-goosey while also helping with pain and soreness.
Kneel in front of a chair, a couch, or your bed. Make sure knees are placed right under hips. If you need to, you can grab a blanket or pillow for added support under your knees.
Extend your spine as you bend at hips, folding forward. Your forearms can rest on your surface of choice. Keep palms facing each other as you do this.
Hold it here for about 30 seconds. You can repeat this up to 3 times.
- Get warm: Warming up before a stretch is the difference between a good stretch and a great one — warm muscles get the best result. So hop in a warm bath with some bath bombs or shower before you get your stretch on.
- Perform controlled breathing: Slow, rhythmic breathing boosts relaxation, helping you hold stretches for the proper amount of time. Try to hold each stretch for at least 6–10 rhythmic, deep breaths.
- Keep it light: Intense nightly workouts can raise your body temp and keep you amped and stimulated — not exactly a bedtime goal. Not everyone will notice less sleep due to nighttime workouts, but they could affect your sleep.
- If you hear a pop, it’s time to stop: Your bedtime stretches shouldn’t hurt you. Pain is usually a signal that you’re going a little too hard. If you feel discomfort, it’s time to stop.