Sleep-starved insomnia sufferers try everything to cure their inability to doze off, from chamomile tea to hypnosis to medication. But there’s one remedy bleary-eyed people may overlook that is hassle-free: stretches that relax the body and mind, allowing you to drift into slumber and be better prepared for the next day.
“Instead of fearfully dreading another sleepless night, you should look forward to your rest,” says Larry Piller, a certified massage practitioner and author of Stretching Your Way: A Unique & Leisurely Muscle Stretching System. “Just by knowing that these stretches are waiting for you anytime you want them, day or night, it will give you a feeling of tranquility as opposed to a night of anxiousness. Stretching has many benefits, and one of those is that it can help you wind down and ease the tension at the end of the day.”
For those weary of counting sheep, Piller offers a few examples of what he calls “superstar stretches for sleeping,” which will keep people out of an insomnia rut without the need for medication or a lifestyle change:
Stretch 1: While lying on your back, extend your right shoulder and elbow out to the side as far as is comfortable. At the same time, bring your thumb and hand downward. You can also perform this stretch while standing.
Stretch 2: As you lie on your back, bring your toes downward and bring your toes and side of foot inward, and get a stretch on the side of the foot. These stretches for the tops and sides of your feet can be done lying on your side as well, as long as you have room to bring your foot or feet down or inward. You also can use a pillow between your legs to raise your foot so you can bring your foot or feet down, or hang your feet over the edge. “This by itself, or in combination with other stretches, has a high chance to put you to sleep like a baby,” Piller says.
Stretch 3: Lying on your back, stretch both arms out. Make a light fist or let your hand dangle over the edge of the bed, extending your shoulder and arms out as much as is comfortable. “For any stretch with your arm over the edge of the bed, if you would rather, you can prop it up with a pillow,” Piller says. “In any position that feels good, put your arm over the pillow and let its leverage pamper you.”
Stretch 4: While lying on your back, just extend your shoulder and arm out as is comfortable.
About 30 percent of Americans experience symptoms of insomnia, and about 10 percent have insomnia severe enough to result in daytime consequences, according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. Fatigue, moodiness, irritability, anger, daytime sleepiness, lack of concentration, poor memory, and headaches are among the problems insomnia can create.
Piller says that’s no way to start the day, but the right stretches are definitely a satisfying way to end it. “For me, muscle stretching is magic,” he says. “You get total relief just knowing this effortless system is waiting for you at bedtime. The stretches work whether you’re in the mood to do them or not, but when you are in the mood, it feels as cozy as a snowy Christmas Eve.”