10 Sleep-Inducing Stretches to Do Before Bed

person stretching before bed

Henry Arden / Getty Images

Are you ready to stretch your way into restful slumber? Getting a solid eight hours of shut-eye is beneficial to your body and mind. However, sometimes it is just not that easy to turn off your brain and fall into a deep sleep. If you have tried melatonin, decreasing your daily caffeine intake, or even a sleep app without much success, it is time to add gentle stretching into your nightly routine. 

Stretching before bed helps you sleep, as it relieves tension and decreases your fight-or-flight response that is activated during times of stress, says Dr. Grayson Wickham, PT, DPT, CSCS. “When trying to optimize your sleep quality, your goal is to be as relaxed as possible right before you go to sleep. A stretching routine before bed can help you decrease your fight-or-flight sympathetic nervous system drive and increase your parasympathetic nervous system drive, ultimately helping you relax before bed,” he says.

Stretching not only helps you relax; it also improves your flexibility and even helps ward off post-exercise muscle soreness. In addition, a stretching routine increases circulation to your muscles and can help prevent injuries and pain, including back pain.

Are you ready to make stretching a part of your nighttime routine? Fitness expert and yoga instructor Christine Bullock shares her top 10 sleep-inducing stretches to do before bed.

Meet the Expert

  • Dr. Grayson Wickham, PT, DPT, CSCS is the founder of Movement Vault, a program that helps you alleviate pain, prevent injury, and increase your flexibility and mobility.
  • Christine Bullock is a fitness and lifestyle expert and the creator of the Evolution 20, Super Shred, and Body Reborn fitness series. She's also the co-creator of Kayo Body Care.

Safety and Precautions

“A well-programmed stretching routine is appropriate, healthy, and safe for most people,” says Wickham. Even so, he recommends talking to a doctor before starting a new routine. 

“You need to exercise caution if you have a significant injury or history of previous injury, such as a significant knee meniscus tear, hip or shoulder labral tear, or traumatic injury such as [from] a severe car accident,” says Wickham. “In addition, those with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome need to ensure that they are following an effective mobility program and executing the stretches correctly, as joint damage can occur if not.”

Most importantly, listen to your body. A little discomfort is fine and is expected during stretching, but you should stop the stretch if you feel pain, burning, numbness, or tingling. “If you are performing the stretch correctly, you should feel the stretch in the muscles and areas of your body that you are targeting. If you are feeling the stretch in different areas, you may not be performing the stretch correctly.”

Make sure you start slow and gradually increase the intensity and the amount of time you stretch. 

Child's Pose

Child's Pose

Christine Bullock

  • Kneel on your bed or floor, with your knees hip-width apart and your feet together behind you.
  • Take a deep breath in, and, as you exhale, walk your hands forward and lower your torso over your thighs.
  • Relax your forehead on the ground.
  • Try to lengthen through your spine. Draw your ribs up and away from your thighs while drawing your shoulders away from your ears.
  • Hold the stretch for at least 60 seconds.

Thread the Needle

Threat the Needle stretch

Christine Bullock

  • Begin on all fours, with your hands under your shoulders and your hips over your knees.
  • Reach your left arm underneath you as you twist through the torso and across your body, with your palm facing up.
  • Straighten your right arm as you carefully lower onto your left side.
  • Try to lengthen through the spine and drop your shoulder away from your ear.
  • Hold for at least 30 seconds.
  • Switch sides and repeat.

Sphinx Pose

Sphinx Pose

Christine Bullock

  • Lie on your stomach with your legs straight behind you.
  • Place your forearms on the floor with your elbows under your shoulders.
  • Press into your forearms to lift your chest up off the floor.
  • Try to lengthen through your spine while opening your collarbone and dropping your shoulders away from your ears.
  • Hold for at least 60 seconds.

Move slowly in this pose and lift your chest only as high as you can without pain. Think about pushing down with your legs and hips to help you lift your chest higher.

Supine Twist

Supine Twist

Christine Bullock

  • Lie on your back, and hug your knees into your chest.
  • Brace your core, and drop your knees to one side as you twist through your torso.
  • Try to lengthen through your spine and draw your core away from your thighs.
  • Gently press the top leg down while straightening the bottom leg.
  • Hold for 30 seconds. Repeat three to five times.
  • Repeat on the other side.

Seated Neck Stretch

Seated neck stretch

Christine Bullock

  • Sit on the bed or floor in a cross-legged position.
  • Rest your left hand next to your left leg.
  • Place your right hand on the top of your head, and slowly tilt your head to the right, bringing your ear to your shoulder.
  • Sit up tall, and apply gentle pressure with your hand to increase the stretch.
  • Hold for 15–30 seconds.
  • Repeat on the other side.
  • Perform three to five times on each side.

Butterfly Stretch

Butterfly stretch

Christine Bullock

  • Sit on the bed or floor with your heels together, knees wide, and hands resting on your feet.
  • Brace the core, exhale, and gently lower your torso toward the middle of your thighs.
  • Try to lengthen through your spine, and press your elbows against your inner knees to open your hips further. 
  • Hold for at least 30 seconds.
  • Repeat three to five times.

Side-Lying Thigh Stretch

Side Lying Thigh Stretch

Christine Bullock

  • Lie down on one side.
  • Reach your lower arm long, and place your head on that arm.
  • Bend at the knee of the top leg, drawing that foot back toward the glutes.
  • Try to reach back and grab the foot or ankle, and gently apply pressure to increase the stretch.
  • Hold for 30 seconds.
  • Repeat on the other leg.

Fish Pose

Fish Pose

Christine Bullock

  • Lie flat on your back, with your arms close to your sides, palms facing down.
  • Press into your hands and forearms to lift the torso while arching your back and lifting your shoulders off the floor.
  • Try to lengthen through the spine, draw the core in, press down into the legs, and drop the head back.
  • Hold for 15–30 seconds.
  • Repeat three to five times.

You can place a rolled blanket or yoga block under the arch of your back to give yourself more support until you become acclimated to this stretch.

Knee to Chest

Knee to Chest

Christine Bullock

  • Lie on your back with both legs extended.
  • Pull one knee in toward your chest, while keeping the other leg straight and your lower back pressed into the floor.
  • Hold for 30 seconds, and repeat three to five times.
  • Switch and repeat on the other side.

Seated Side Stretch

Seated Side Stretch

Christine Bullock

  • Sit on the bed or floor in a cross-legged position.
  • Rest your left arm beside your left leg.
  • Reach your right arm to the sky, and lean to the left side while elongating through the spine.
  • Hold for 30 seconds.
  • Repeat on the other side.
  • Perform three to five times on each side.
Article Sources
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  1. American Council on Exercise. Top 10 Benefits of Stretching. October, 2014.

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