A 90-Second Solution To Sleep Better Tonight
Restorative sleep is an essential component to bolstering wellbeing—both your physical and emotional health. Try these three quick exercises to prepare your body for better rest.
This news might keep you up at night: according to a 2017 national survey, 79% of Americans are not getting the recommended seven hours of sleep. You may be all-too-familiar with some common factors that contribute to poor sleep—stress, screen time before bed, poor diet, and chronic pain are among the big ones—but there’s another surprising reason many people don’t get the rest they need: their breathing.
“One of the top reasons people don’t sleep well has to do with breathing,” says Brian Bradley, Fitness Director of Elev8d. Indeed, Sleep Disordered Breathing (SDB) effects approximately 42 million American adults and 37 million American adults report as regular snorers. SBD and snoring (oftentimes one in the same) contribute to a host of health issues like diabetes and hypertension and cardiovascular failure—not to mention chronic sleepiness, headaches, and depression.
Snoring and breathing disorders, of course, are obvious ways that obstructed breathing impairs sleep, but even those who don’t suffer from SBD or don’t sleep with a snoring spouse, can improve their quality of sleep by increasing their oxygen intake.
Deep breathing, or diaphragmatic breathing, maximizes the amount of oxygen that goes into the bloodstream. “Any position you can put yourself into that increases your diaphragm function to increase oxygen saturation will make you healthier overall,” says Bradley. “Remember, oxygen is the one chemical element we cannot live without more than a couple of minutes,” he adds. The trick, Bradley suggests, is to prep the body for a position where the upper back is more stable and the diaphragm is stronger, thus deep, restful breathing is easier.
This short, easy series of exercises is designed to do just that: the first exercise loosens up the ligaments and mobility of the spine, the second engages the abs and hips, and the final exercise stabilizes the hip flexors and spine. “If your day is like mine, you’ve been going non-stop and in the evening you sit down to decompress. Notice your posture: the upper back is rounded, and you’ve molded the sitting spine position right before bed. These simple movements will help break that mold, and help wake up the diaphragm, leading to 35 or 40% better breathing,” Bradley adds.
What’s more, the very act of getting active can also improve sleep quality. According to the National Sleep Foundation, studies show that those who get the recommended 150 minutes each week of moderate exercise sleep 65% better than those who do not. Regular exercisers are also more alert during the day, and have more energy.
The benefits of better sleep are far-reaching. Adequate sleep is critical for the body and brain’s proper functioning, and sleep deprivation negatively impacts everything from appetite (linked to higher risk for obesity), to heart disease, to cognition and mood.
So add these wind-down movements to your before-bed routine. Brush your teeth, stretch out with a wobble, a few itsy bitsy abs and a quick squat, then snuggle up for eight hours of sweet dreams.
Wobbles | 15x
- 1. In a seated position, bend your knees and pull them towards your chest.
- 2. Hug your knees tightly, then roll backwards on your hips and spine and then roll forward back to the seated position.
- 3. As much as possible, avoid using momentum on the roll and focus on using more your abs to return to the seated position.
Itsy Bitsy Abs | 5x Each side
- 1. Start on your back, knees up, feet flat on the ground, and lift your right leg straight up.
- 2. Pull the toes back on your right foot, put both hands on your right thigh, then walk your hands up towards the ankle and back to the thigh, using your abs to lift your upper body and to let it back down.
- 3. Be sure to lift with your chest and chin, not your forehead. Your head should not crunch toward your knee.
- 4. Repeat with the left leg.
Static Squat | 30 Seconds
- 1. Spread your feet just wider than your hips, pointing them straight, and extend your arms directly in front of you, palms down.
- 2. Drop your hips but keep your pelvis rolled forward so that there’s a small arch in your back.
- 3. Hold this position for 30 seconds.