10 Best Simple Stretches for Sleep

Stretching before bed can positively impact your sleep, but it's important to use the right stretches for the best night's rest.

Joshua Cox-Steib
Joshua Cox-Steib is a sociologist and freelance writer. He lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma, with his wife and their menagerie of pets. Joshua holds a degree in sociology from the University of Tulsa and worked as a behavioral analyst before becoming a professional writer.
Joshua Cox-Steib
6 min read
Man stretching his neck before bed
Getty Images/Katleho Seisa

Many of us know what it's like to struggle for a good night's sleep, but finding that perfect position and drifting off can feel all but impossible when your body or mind is full of tension. It may be tempting to lay there, tossing and turning, hoping that you'll eventually fall asleep, but there are quicker ways to get your body and mind where they need to be. Stretching before bed can help to get you in the right frame of mind while also removing much of the tension from your muscles. Below, we've compiled some of the best stretches for sleep to help you get the rest you need and deserve.

Is it a good idea to stretch before bed?

Doing the right stretches before bed can have several benefits. For starters, stretching will help to release tension from your muscles. If you've ever tried to sleep while your body feels like it's being tied in a knot or desperate for movement, then stretching may help to alleviate these feelings. Studies have found that stretching before bed can help ease insomnia, improve flexibility and encourage a higher sleep quality. These studies also found that stretching before bed was associated with reduced tension and anxiety.

If you struggle with falling or staying asleep, you may find that these bedtime stretches help. Most people could benefit from stretching before bed, but those experiencing muscular tension, anxiety or insomnia may benefit the most. If you have a physical injury or mobility complication, it's wise to speak with a physician before adding new stretches to your bedtime routine.

10 best stretches before bed

Woman stretching her arms before bed
Getty Images/Daniel de La Hoz

The best stretches before bed can vary between individuals and over time. If you have specific muscle groups that are sore, for instance, you'll likely want to include stretches that target that group. Still, several stretches you can do before bed are generally helpful for those seeking better sleep. The list below explores some of the more accessible and effective of these stretches.

CNET Health Tips logo

Lateral neck stretch

Also known as lateral neck flexion, this stretch targets the scalene muscles used for turning and tilting your head. Stretching these muscles can help to alleviate some headaches and reduce general physical tension in the neck and head. To do this stretch, ensure your spine is aligned and gently turn your head from one direction to the other. It can help to breathe in as you turn the head one way and breathe out as you turn it the other.

Bear hug

The bear hug is a relatively simple stretch that can help alleviate tensions in the posterior shoulder muscles and upper back. To do this stretch, hold your arms straight out to the sides at shoulder height and then firmly wrap them around your body as if you were giving yourself a big bear hug. Once in the hug, round your shoulders, squeeze for a few seconds, and then release, swinging your arms wide to open your chest and release the remaining tension in your shoulders and upper back.


Like many stretches, this one is literally named. To start, find a tall, flat wall and place padding underneath (blankets or mats). Next, sit down on the padding with your head facing the wall, and then gently begin lifting your legs up the wall and laying your back down on the padding. The goal is to slowly work your way to having your legs flat against the wall, with your buttocks against the base of the wall, and your torso, shoulders and head flat on the ground. It can help to hold your arms out to the side against the floor for support. Benefits of this stretch can include improved circulation and reduced stress.

Thread the needle

Threading the needle is a stretch that can help reduce tension in the back, neck and shoulder muscles. While this pose can be combined with others, it's possible to do it independently. To start, get down on all fours with a flat back. Next, slide one arm under the other's armpit so that your shoulders become vertical (stacked) while your hips remain horizontal. After holding this pose for a handful of breaths, switch arms to ensure both sides get stretched. When doing any stretch involving the back, always listen to your body and avoid pushing it past its limits.


This stretch primarily targets the muscles of your lower back, although it may also help with the hips, depending on how tight they are. To do the knee-to-chest stretch, lay down with your back on the floor and your legs straight. Then, lift one leg, almost as if you were marching on it, pulling the knee towards your chest with your hands placed just below that knee. Once you've pulled your knee as close as you comfortably can, hold the stretch for half a minute or more. Then, lower your leg and switch sides. It's best to avoid this stretch if you have back injuries or osteoporosis unless otherwise directed by your physician.

Supine twist

The supine twist, also known as a supine spinal twist, can help to stretch and relieve tension from the back, neck, shoulders, spine and thighs. To get started, lie down flat with your legs straight and arms extended to the sides. Next, gently pull one knee up towards your chest before slowly shifting that leg crosswise over the other. For instance, your right leg will cross over your left while the left remains straight. As you stretch one leg over the other, turn your head to the opposite side of the leg being extended (if stretching your right leg, turn your head right) and keep your arms extended to both sides with the palms facing upward. Once you finish one side, start over and switch to the other. Try to hold the stretch for half a minute on each side. If you have experienced back injuries or issues with your spine or bone density, speak with a medical expert before attempting a spinal twist.

Piriformis stretch

This stretch targets the piriformis and surrounding muscles and may help alleviate tension and pain in the hips, upper legs and sciatic nerve. This stretch can also increase flexibility in the hips and lower back. To do this stretch, lay flat on the floor with your legs extended straight. Then, lift one knee up towards your chest, gently grab below the knee with the opposite hand (right hand for left knee), and slowly pull that knee towards the opposite shoulder (left knee to right shoulder). After holding the pose for around half a minute, relax your limbs and do the same stretch with the other leg.

Seated spinal twist

This spinal twist can help to increase spinal mobility and overall flexibility in your back, which may also alleviate tightness in the hips. To perform the seated spinal twist, sit on the floor with your buttocks flat and your legs extended straight along the ground. Next, lift one leg up so it is bent and then place the foot of that bent leg just outside the other leg's knee. So, your right foot will rest flat on the ground outside your left knee. Then, reach your opposing arm out, wrap it around the raised knee, and turn your chest and head towards the opposite direction of that arm. For instance, if your right leg is bent, your left arm wraps around that leg, and you turn your head and chest to the right. Hold this pose for half a minute, then switch sides. As with all spinal stretches, it's essential to avoid pushing too far or doing these stretches when your back is injured or prone to injury.

Sphinx stretch

This stretch may help relieve tension in the lower back and upper chest while strengthening the spine. To perform this stretch, lay flat on your stomach, with arms and legs stretched straight ahead and behind with the soles of the feet facing up and the palms of the hands down. Next, slide your hands back towards your body until your elbows are close to being stacked under your shoulders. During this shift, your shoulders, head and chest will lift upwards, creating a curve in your back. Ensure your pelvis remains flat on the floor, and hold this pose for up to a few minutes.

Side shoulder stretch

This stretch can help to alleviate tension in the shoulders, neck and upper back. To perform this shoulder stretch, extend one arm out and then pivot from the shoulder until it crosses over your other arm's bicep. Then, wrap your non-extended arm so that the extended arm rests within your folded elbow. Then, relax the shoulder of the extended arm and gently hug that arm towards you with the non-extended arm. Hold this pose for fifteen seconds or more, and then switch sides. 

Looking for more tips? Read more in Getting Morning Sunlight Improved My Sleep. Here's Why You Should Start Too, 42 Expert Ways to Take Charge of Your Sleep Quality and How to Take a Nap Without Ruining Your Sleep

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.