It’s no secret that sleep holds a top spot on the list of ways to improve your health—both mentally and physically. Researchers have studied the effects of quality zzz’s (and the lack thereof) for years, demonstrating just how important bedtime is for repairing muscles, fighting disease, and maintaining memory. And one thing many experts have found that leads to better shut-eye: exercise.
The 2013 National Sleep Foundation Sleep in America poll found that exercisers report having better quality sleep than non-exercisers, despite both groups getting the same number of hours. Vigorous exercisers even reported less sleep problems, like having trouble falling asleep, waking up in the middle of the night and failing to drift off again, or simply getting up in the morning and feeling groggy and tired, rather than refreshed.
Other science supports this idea of exercise improving sleep quality, particularly if you combine resistance training and aerobic exercise. And more research says that exercise can actually help alleviate the symptoms of sleep loss, like insulin resistance and glucose intolerance.
Here’s the catch: Despite how important it is to put your head to the pillow, only about 10% of Americans prioritize sleep over other activities…like fitness, according to this year’s annual Sleep in America poll. An ideal solution? Combine the two, with a routine that’ll prep your body for bedtime. That’s where this quick pre-sleep sequence comes in to play.
With a focus on deep or diaphragmatic breathing, Brian Bradley, fitness director of Elev8d Fitness, a new total-body fitness program developed by the experts of Sonima, designed this routine to increase oxygen throughout the body, and induce better sleep. “Remember, oxygen is the one chemical element we cannot live without more than a couple of minutes,” he says. The trick, Bradley explains, is prepare the body for a position where the upper back is more stable and the diaphragm is stronger, thus deep, restful breathing is easier.
This quick and easy series of exercises works to get your body in that proper breathing position. First, you’ll loosen up the spine, then you’ll work to engage 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 says.
Follow these three moves below or watch the full routine on Elev8dFitness.com.
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 your abs more to return to the seated position. Repeat for 15 reps.
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 control it back down. 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. Do 5 per side.
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.