Did you know that as many as 16 million Brits suffer from sleepless nights, with nearly a quarter managing on just five hours a night?* Work and life stress is often cited as a common reason many folk wake up at night, but those with kids will know that both young and old children have an amazing ability to keep their parents up during the early hours. According to The Sleep Council, the most popular time to hit the hay is 10-11pm, but even then many of us can’t snooze and often turn to either a book or the TV to wind down. The good news? There is a better way.
Light activity can help. Exercise is a great stress reliever, but the type of workout you do before bedtime counts. A high intensity workout risks causing an adrenaline spike that could keep you up for hours. Our go-to snooze inducer? Pilates. “The deep muscle relaxation experienced during Pilates exercise helps reduce anxiety, muscular tension, insomnia, depression, fatigue, muscle spasms, neck and back pain, and high blood pressure,” explains Gaby Noble, a leading Pilates instructor. “Pilates exercises will also trigger an increase in body temperature – enough to cause the post-exercise drop in temperature that helps promote falling asleep easier.” Spinal rolling techniques are particularly beneficial, as rolling and unrolling massages the spine and relaxes nerves – it’s the ultimate mind-body fix that will help you to switch off.
The best bit? You can do Pilates in your pyjamas, from the comfort of your bed. Simply, set the scene by creating a cool, dark and quiet environment, and avoid bulky pillows. “The hour before bed should be the most restful time of the day,” adds Gaby. “Creating a habit where you wind down, switch off and have some ‘you’ time by doing a Pilates session can help.” Ready to give it a go? Try this bedtime Pilates workout, created by Gaby exclusively for Health & Wellbeing readers, and you’ll soon be in the land of slumber.
Reset, de-stress and clear your thoughts with these home-friendly exercises that will calm your mind and relax your body.
Breathing Lie down with your hands cupped over your ribs, your knees bent, feet flat and your hips, shoulders and head heavy. Inhale deeply, lifting and expanding the lungs, for a count of three. On the last breath, exhale deeply for a count of three. Do this four to six times, relaxing your face and jaw on each breath.
Arm circles Lie down on your back with your upper back elevated on one or two pillows, keeping your chest open. With your knees in line with your hips and your feet on the floor, lift your arms up overhead with your palms facing upwards. Inhale as you open the arms away from one another to stretch the chest. Exhale, draw your tummy towards your spine as you keep your arms long and bring them back to centre. You can hug yourself to get a further stretch each time you bring the arms to the centre. Do this three to five times, deepening the breath while maintaining a stable pelvis and keeping your abs drawn in.
Spinal stretch Sit up with your legs straight out, a little wider than your hip-width apart. If you’ve got tight hip flexors, keep your knees bent slightly. Lift your arms up so that your wrists are in line with your shoulders. Inhale as you lift the spine, and exhale as you reach your hands forward towards your toes, while pulling your abs back into your spine. This should create a stretch in your upper and lower back. Inhale to re-stack your spine, vertebrae by vertebrae, with your arms staying extended to lift your body up tall, then exhale deeply. Do this three to five times.
Swan The swan is one of the best exercises you can do to open the front body, expand your chest and stretch your abdominals. It will also release any tightness in your hip flexors and quadriceps. To do it, lie on your front with your hands on the floor, under your shoulders, and your elbows close to your body. Ideally, keep feet together to activate your glutes. If you feel any back tightness, keep your legs hip-width apart. Inhale as your draw your navel to your spine and lift your head and chest off the floor. Exhale as you continue to stretch your back and chest to straighten the arms. Make sure you are keeping your neck long. Repeat three to five times.
Saw Sit tall, with your legs slightly wider than hip-width apart. Extend your arms out to the sides, with your feet flexed. Inhale as you draw your abs in and up, lifting tall through the spine. Exhale slowly as you twist your waist to the right, with your hips remaining square and rooted. Reach your right arm back behind you as your left arm reaches across your right leg. Continue the stretch, keeping both of your hips rooted. Inhale as you draw your body up, making sure that the movement is initiated by your abs drawing back into your spine. Repeat three to four times.
Gaby Noble is the owner of Exhale Pilates London, whose clients include Harry Styles, Sadie Frost and Jools Oliver. Exhale Pilates offers private sessions, duets, mat, tower and reformer-based classes. Book at exhalepilateslondon.com