Sleep should be a welcome respite, but with our regular routines turned upside down and an almost daily onslaught of new anxiety-inducing news, many people turn and turn. A study published in June by the journal Sleep Medicine found a 37% increase in rates of clinical insomnia among adults in China before the peak of the pandemic.
Exercise can reduce the time it takes to fall asleep and the time spent awake at night, according to numerous studies. It also increases the time and quality of sleep. While experts suggest avoiding vigorous exercise in the hour before bed (this increases heart rate, body temperature, and adrenaline), stretching and meditative movements like yoga have been shown to improve. the quality of sleep. These types of exercises elicit a relaxation response, in which the body experiences a flood of soothing hormones and physiological responses that soothe the nervous system.
Here’s a short routine that can be a calming transition right before bed. Take a thick book or yoga block, two tennis or massage balls, and socks. For each exercise, take slow, deep abdominal breaths that accentuate and lengthen the exhale. Breathing in this way strengthens the relaxation response.
Cat / Cow
Performing cat and cow yoga poses releases upper back and neck tension and synchronizes breathing and movement, which begins to calm body and mind. Get into a table position on the floor with your hands under your shoulders and knees under your hips. As you inhale, drop the stomach, press the chest forward, and look up. Exhale, draw the chin to the chest and round the spine. Move fluidly between the two poses so that with each inhale you enter the cow and with each exhale you enter the chat. Take three to five breaths.
The child’s pose releases tension in the back and shoulders, gently stretches the hips and has an overall soothing effect. Starting on a table, push your hips towards your heels and place your chest between your thighs. Your big toes are touching and your knees are as wide apart as needed to allow you to breathe deeply. Bring your hands out in front of you, stretching through the arms. Your forehead can rest on the floor, or, for a mini massage, place a tennis ball or massage ball under your forehead and roll gently from side to side. (This step stimulates an acupressure point that is supposed to relieve nervous tension.)
Thread the needle
This slight twist releases the tension from the shoulders and begins to stretch and loosen the lower back. Begin in a tabletop position with wrists below shoulders and knees below hips. As you inhale, raise your right arm skyward, palm facing away from your body. Exhale and put your right arm under your chest, resting your shoulder on the floor. Turn the right palm to the sky and rest the right cheek on the ground. Keep the left palm sunk into the dirt or deepen the twist by bringing the left hand down your lower back. Hold for five breaths. Then, on an inhale, sweep your right hand skyward for a gentle counter-twist. Exhale, return to the starting position and repeat on the other side.
This exercise begins to open up the psoas muscle, the deepest muscle in the core that connects the spine to the legs. The psoas helps us move forward when we walk or run, supports internal organs, and connects to the diaphragm, which has a direct impact on our breathing. Relaxation of the psoas allows us to take deeper diaphragmatic breaths.
Come back to the table. Step your right foot between your hands and slide your left knee further behind you. Keep your hands on the floor, framing the front foot, or place them on your front knee. Take five to 10 breaths here and switch legs.
Neck massage with balls
This technique helps release tension in the neck and stimulates the vagus nerve, the driving force of the parasympathetic nervous system, which impacts sleep and mood. Lower onto your back with a yoga block or thick book under your head. Turn your head to the right and place the ball on the top of your neck behind your ear. Take five deep breaths here. Then gently nod your head “yes” three or four times, then “no” three or four times. And, switch sides.
Bear hugs and snow angels
These two exercises open up the chest, release tension in the back and shoulders, and neutralize postural problems. Poor posture has been shown to affect stress, mood, breathing, and circulation.
Lower onto your back and place two tennis or massage balls between your shoulder blades at the top of your spine. (Tip: Using two massage balls in a carry bag or two tennis balls in a sock will keep them from rolling.) Keep your knees bent and your feet on the ground. Rest your head on the ground and extend your arms out to the side like cactus arms. Take three to five breaths here. Next, hug yourself by crossing your right arm over your left and swing your left arm over your right. Repeat these bear hugs a few times. Then take your arms back into the shape of a cactus. Inhale and slowly extend your arms above your head. Exhale and bring your elbows back to your waist. Repeat three to five times, trying to keep your arms on the floor throughout the movement. Lift your hips and roll the balls down your spine a few inches and repeat. Keep rolling the balls behind your back and repeating the bear hugs and snow angels until you get to mid-back (where a bra strap or heart rate monitor would be) .
This stretch, also known as the “pigeon lying on your back” in yoga, opens the hips, relieves pressure in the lower back, and counteracts excessive sitting and poor posture. Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet on the floor. Cross your right foot over your left thigh, just above your knee. Stay here or stand on the back of your left thigh and gently pull both legs towards you. Flex both feet and keep your left foot at knee height or higher. Hold five to ten breaths and switch sides.
Knee to Chest to Spine Twist
This combined movement stretches the hips and lower back. Extend your legs and slide them together. Pull your right knee against your chest, wrapping your fingers around your right shin and gently squeeze your knee to stretch your lower back and hips. Hold for three breaths. Release your knee and send it over the left leg for a slight spine twist. Turn your gaze to the right. Hold five to ten breaths and switch sides.
Legs against the wall
This yoga pose stretches the hamstrings, relieves tension in the lower back, and can help reduce swelling or cramps that may have built up from sitting or standing for long periods of time. Sit with one hip next to a wall. Raise your legs parallel to the wall as you lean back and rest your upper body on the floor, forming an L-shape. If your hamstrings are tense, step your hips back a few inches from the wall or slightly bend your legs. knees. For more support, you can also place a folded blanket or bolster under your lower back. This will lift your butt slightly off the ground. Place your right index finger on your nose and gently close the right nostril. Take five to ten slow breaths in and out through the left nostril only, which lowers blood pressure, body temperature, and anxiety. Release your hand and breathe slowly and deeply through both nostrils. Then press your feet against the wall, lift your hips slightly and roll to one side. Stay on your side for a few breaths, taking your time to come out of the pose.
This powerful relaxation technique can help clear the mind and relax the body – Navy SEALs have reportedly been known to use it when their bodies are in combat or flight mode. Get into bed, lie on your back, and put your hands on your stomach. Close your eyes and inhale through your nose for a count of four. Hold the inspiration for four. Breathe out completely for a count of four, making sure all the air is out of your lungs. Stay breathless for a count of four. Repeat the process for three to five minutes. It can be useful to visualize by drawing the perimeter of a square; imagine going up one side of the box on the inhale, one side while you hold the inhale, the other side of the box on the exhale and the other side while you hold the expiry.