We all know there’s a ton of stuff we’re supposed to be doing during the day to take care of our body – stretch, sit up straight, activate our abdominals, blah, blah blah blah.
It’s true – all this blah blah blah IS very important, but it’s not as easy as just lying in bed.
If you know me, I’m all about super easy home care.
And… what’s easier than just lying in bed?
Today I’m going to show you four things you can do when you get in bed, before you go to sleep, that will not only FEEL good when you’re in bed (i.e. help you relax, making it easier to drift off), and are dead easy to do, but will also help relax and reduce the tension in your muscles.
(and you know, if you just want an excuse to get in bed for a bit at any time of the day)
You might be surprised just how effective a simple adjustment in bed before you fall asleep can be.
These four ‘excuses’ are by no means exhaustive (trust me, I have so many ways to relax your muscles while you’re just lying in bed… relaxing) but they’re some of the most common I use myself, and are a great place to start.
You can pick and choose which one you want to do, or you can combine and do two at a time, or you can go really crazy and do all four. At. Once.
How to Read This Post
The best way to read this post is on your phone in bed so you can try each one as you’re reading it.
If you’re not in bed right now, that doesn’t mean you should stop reading.
Read through each position, visualise yourself doing it, and hopefully when you are in bed later you’ll remember what you’re supposed to be doing.
Side note: You’ll notice all of these positions have you on your back.
‘But Katherine, I don’t sleep on my back!’
You might be thinking.
I don’t either.
So here’s what I do:
When I first get into bed, I start on my back, do whichever of these positions I’m doing that night, for about 5-10 minutes, and then, when I’m ready, I’ll roll into my sleeping position of choice, feeling nicely stretched & relaxed.
As with everything, listen to your body.
None of these should be painful, none of these should feel ‘wrong’.
If lying on your back hurts your lower back, stick a pillow under your knees to take some pressure off it – you can still do the back and the hip/legs one with a pillow under your knees.
And, pregnant women shouldn’t be on their back after 20 weeks.
Read through them below, or click on any of the list below to jump to that specific one:
Problem: Most of us spend a lot of the day with our shoulders up around our ears.
We get stressed, we breathe into our necks, our shoulders creep up little by little, and eventually just get stuck there.
Half of us sleep with our shoulders up (not sure if that’s you? This explains how to check if you’re sleeping with tension in your shoulders).
Bed fix: Lying on your back, get a sense of where your shoulder blades currently are on your back, and where your shoulders are in relation to your ears.
Take a deep breath, and as you exhale, use your back muscles to pull your shoulder blades down your back.
Ideally, you want them to go straight down your back, or slightly towards each other in a diagonal line downwards.
But the important thing is that they’re going down, and you’re NOT pulling them towards the middle of your back and pushing your chest out.
This should be gentle – think a light tugging versus any sort of forcing motion.
Even if it’s just a centimeter of movement.
As you pull your shoulder blades down, you’ll lift your back slightly (you can’t help it).
Once your shoulder blades are in place, relax your upper back back down onto the bed so the weight of your body holds your shoulder blades in their new position.
Now as you’re lying there, having pulled your shoulder blades down your back, feel the extra space in the tops of the shoulders and extra length in the back of your neck.
Breathe into that space for a few minutes, and you’ll feel your shoulders let go – the tension/pull feeling will decrease or disappear.
You may even find, after a couple of minutes, that your shoulders are so relaxed that your shoulder blades could drop down even further.
But, whatever you do, DON’T force it.
It’s okay if you just get a centimeter.
The main thing is that you’re encouraging your shoulders to relax away from your head.
The problem: most of us spend a lot of the day (if not all day) with our head forward of our body.
This shortens the back of our neck and muscles on the side/front of our neck making it hard for our head to comfortably be back over our shoulders – where it should be.
The bed fix: This neck position helps to stretch out both the side/front muscle that gets short as well as the back of the neck.
First, find the lump/bump on the back of your skull.
Put your hand at the top of your neck at the back of your head.
Going up the middle of the back of the skull, you’ll first come to a soft dent, and then above that is the lump/bump I’m talking about.
It’s not huge, but it’s definitely there.
When you’re in bed lying on your back, lift your head up, tucking your chin in slightly so you’re lengthening out the back of your neck.
Place your head back on the bed with your neck lengthened, using the lump/bump to hold your neck in that position.
Because the lump/bump is holding your head in that position, you can relax your neck and feel a very gentle stretch or pull.
It might be so gentle that you don’t even feel it.
But it IS stretching.
This is the neck position.
Take a couple minutes to breathe into it, and even though you might not feel a stretch, you might notice a ‘letting go’ feeling in the back of your neck or at the base of your skull.
The problem: our lower back is very often curved too far forward when we’re standing, walking around, and sometimes even when we’re trying to have good seated posture.
The bed fix: When you’re lying in bed bring your attention to your lumbo-pelvic region.
(your lumbo-pelvic region is your lower abdominals, your pelvis, and the very bottom of your spine in the lower back)
You may notice that your lower back or the top of the back of the hips are tilted up so you don’t have the same contact with your back onto the bed as you do with your butt (or, depending on how firm your mattress is, you have no contact).
Bend your knees so your feet are flat on the bed, and adjust your back, especially the triangular bottom of your spine (called the sacrum) so that it’s flat on the bed.
You’d usually do this by tilting your pelvis so your pubic bone comes up towards your ribs a bit.
Don’t worry if you can’t get your whole lower back to be in contact with the bed – the main thing is to get the bottom of your spine/back of the hips flat on the bed, and even maybe feel a very gentle pull.
Once your back is in this position, stretch your legs out flat on the bed.
With your legs straightened, you may feel a very slight stretch (or, if you’re really tight, a strong one), across the front of your hips.
Ideally, you feel like your lower back is being lengthened along with the front of your hips being gently opened, but one or the other is okay too.
Breathe into your back, the front of the hips, and anywhere you feel a gentle pull and feel your muscles relax and your spine lengthen.
The problem: We slowly compress our limbs as we scrunch ourselves up or walk around or bend all day.
Eventually we lose mobility in our hips partly because they’re so jammed up in themselves they have nowhere to go.
The bed fix: If you’ve ever done yoga, you’re familiar with the whole body stretch.
You lie on your back and lengthen your arms over your head and your legs away from your torso to get a nice, big body stretch.
This is one half of that.
On your back, lift up your leg (which should stay straight) only about a centimeter off the bed and reach your leg away from your body, trying to get your foot to rest about an inch (if possible, if not a centimeter is okay too) further down the bed than your heel was resting before.
If you flex your foot, aka let it relax naturally, your heel should create a natural ‘hook’ on the bed that keeps your leg in place.
Then lift your other leg and do the same, lengthening your foot away from your body and resting your heel on the bed, with your foot slightly flexed in a relaxed position.
Now, just lie there.
The new position of your feet should create a very gentle pull down your leg from your hip/lower back to your foot.
Notice anywhere you feel tension or restriction and breathe into it, letting your legs decompress.
Note: if you have Ehlers Danlos or any type of severe hypermobility syndrome you may need to be careful with this one. Slight hypermobility should be okay, but if you’re in any doubt skip this one.
Now you have four fantastic reasons to get back in bed or stay in bed a little longer or go to bed a little earlier.
I would love to know which one you’ll try first – leave a comment below and let me know how it feels!
Do you know someone who would like to spend more time in bed? Please share it with them (or share on social and tag them).