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Sleep and Stress

Learn which workouts will boost your sleep.

Until recently, nighttime workouts and sleep were considered a bad match. The consensus was that late-evening exercise would rev the body too much before bedtime, promoting sleeplessness. The truth is, you can do any type of exercise at night, as long as the workout doesn’t interfere with your slumber. (People who have sleep disorders, on the other hand, should avoid nighttime exercise.)

The following low-key exercises may be particularly good to try before bed, because they help you let go of all the stress that you likely accumulated throughout the day and they allow you to activate, stretch, and relax your muscles to relieve tension. When both your body and your mind are calm, it’s easier to drift off into slumber. Try these gentle routines tonight.

Pilates

The roll down warm up and cool down move is perfect for decompressing in the evening.  To start, stand tall with feet hips-width apart, hands against your sides. Shoulders are relaxed. Using your abdominal muscles, slowly bend forward. Let arms dangle toward the floor and hang, while you breathe deeply. Try to touch the ground and then hold the pose for a second or two. Next, reverse and roll up slowly, keeping the abdominal muscles engaged.

Yoga

Try “legs on a wall.” Sit close to a wall. Lie on your back, push your butt close to the wall, and lift your legs up and rest them against the wall. Put your arms by your sides and turn up your palms. Hold that position for 10 to 20 seconds.

Stretching

Sit on the floor with your legs together, flat, and outstretched in front of you. Slowly bend your torso forward and reach for your toes. Try to hold this hamstring stretch for up to 30 seconds.

Self-Massage

Use a foam roller or a tennis ball and your own body weight to rub out knots and ease aches and chronic pain, which are known to disturb sleep.

Relaxation Exercises

While lying in bed, curl your toes on both feet and hold them in that position for a few seconds. Then uncurl them so they’re completely relaxed. Next, tense up your calf muscles in your legs and hold them in that position for a few seconds. Then release them. Follow that pattern and work your way up the body, tensing and relaxing different muscle groups. There are so many muscles in the body that sometimes you may not even realize that you’ve spent all day tensing, say, your shoulders—until you stop to think about your shoulders, specifically, and release that tension.

Meditation

Find a quiet room and dim the lights. Sitting in a comfortable position on the floor, with your shoes removed, close your eyes. Breathe deeply—in through your nose and out through your mouth—as you try to clear your mind of all thoughts.  Focus on your breath. Doing this for 25 minutes per day is ideal, but even a few minutes of meditation is better than nothing!