If your pre-bed plan involves skincare and sitting still, you might want to rethink it. This exercise plan could fix your sleeping problems.
The basic principles of balancing sleep and exercise are that morning workouts will help your body sleep at night time, while evening exercise may spike your blood pressure and cortisol levels and make it harder to wind down. That’s probably why you won’t see many zen bedtime routines suggesting a trip to the weights room or a run around the block at 9PM.
But there’s more to it than that, says sleep expert and author of Sleep Recovery Lisa Sanfilippo. “Movement can revitalise and strengthen us, but we also need the other end of the spectrum: movement and exercise that enables us to rest and to get a sense of our bodies and what they need. The term here is ‘interoception’, which is the capacity to sense and respond to our internal states of hungry = eat, sleepy= sleep, and tired= rest,” she says.
She believes that simple exercises, both physical and meditative, before bed won’t just help you fall asleep faster but will actually restore and repair your overall sleeping pattern. Rather than simply thrashing out HIIT first thing and neglecting to balance that with any sort of wind down routine, we actually need to include all sorts of movement and breathing in the morning, noon and night.
“Being able to rest deeply is not only about chilling out, it’s about having dynamism,” she explains. “Enough exercise of the right kind gives us the drive to sleep deeply. You learn to repair your body’s ability to calm down, slow down, rest deeply and feel what it’s like to dissipate tension. You learn to melt tension from your body, how to bring your heart rate, brain waves, mental state and nervous system back into balance, and look at the mental digestion you need each day.”
Her programme, a 5-step Sleep Recovery available via the Movement for Modern Life app, aims to simplify all of this. It contains routines to do whether you need a mid afternoon pick-me-up or to get back to sleep in the middle of the night, all involving yoga, breathwork and meditation.
Want a taster of what that might look like? Here’s just some of the flows that Lisa teaches to help you repair your sleep.
A pre-bed sequence for better sleep
This is a short example of a flow you can do from your bed to repair your ability to get to sleep.
Lying on your stomach, place the elbows under the shoulders and put your head and chest on your forearms. Bend the left leg at the knee and grip around your ankle to pull the heel towards your bum, stretching out the thigh. Hold for five breaths and repeat on the other side.
This brings circulation down to the lower body, rather than pulling upwards as is the case when we are stuck in our heads throughout the day.
Place your arm under your body and roll over so you are lying on your back, bring the knees into the chest. Then straighten the left leg up to the sky and pull it towards your chest so that you feel a stretch in your hamstring and the front of your leg and sit bones opening up.
From there, take the leg out to the side, straight or bent, to stretch the inner thigh and outer hip. You can take half happy baby pose here, too. Then draw in for a figure four stretch, placing the foot on the right knee.
A morning workout to rejuvenate energy
These three poses are simple enough to do anywhere and anytime that you need to wake up your body.
Place your bum against a wall and fall forward keeping a bend in the legs and holding the opposite elbow in your hands. This should allow the muscles in your back to elongate.
Lift your torso up and begin to bend and straighten your knees slowly to lightly raise your heart rate.
Turn around to place your hands on the wall so that they are at the same heights as your hips, with a slight bend in the knees again. Move side to side slightly through the hips and elbows so stretch into the side body and bring circulation into the chest.
For the full sequences, sign up to the Movement for Modern Life app. For more stretching inspiration, follow along with our Stretch The Week Out videos every Friday on Instagram stories.
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Chloe Gray is the senior writer for stylist.co.uk's fitness brand Strong Women. When she's not writing or lifting weights, she's most likely found practicing handstands, sipping a gin and tonic or eating peanut butter straight out of the jar (not all at the same time).