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Lately, the word "full-time" has taken over my entire schedule: I have a full-time job, I'm a full-time student, and I've been a full-time health freak since this whole "new year, new you" idea started trending. So naturally, there's hardly any room to fit sleep into my jam-packed agenda. As sad as it is to say, sleep has become just another task on my checklist instead of a rejuvenating activity I need to, well...live. By the time I get home, I have just enough energy to shower, scarf down some food and watch the latest episode of "Scandal" before passing out with my iPhone in one hand and a to-do list running through my head. Basically, I'm a sleep-deprived mess.

Thankfully there's a solution to my bad sleeping habit. Truth is, sprawling out onto my bed isn't the most efficient way to get a good night's sleep and wake up feeling refreshed. After talking with personal trainers, fitness experts, and health and wellness gurus, I've learned that stretching before bed reaps way more amazing benefits than you might think.

DailyBurn fitness trainer Anja Garcia says, "Sometimes it can be hard to calm your body and your mind after a busy day. I'm a fitness trainer and pediatric nurse, so I'm always on the go. But I've found that stretching before bed is one of the best ways to wind down after a long day."

Similarly, Alice Beckett-Wilson, physical therapist and wellness expert says, "Stretching before going to bed is helpful in getting a good night's sleep, and all stretches should be done with a focus on breathing."

So if you're desperately awaiting some much-needed R&R, fluff your pillows, toss the sheets back and keep clicking to see how to prepare for the best sleep of your life.

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Extended Cone Stretch
To begin this stretch, Beckett-Wilson suggests starting in the standing position with equal weight on both feet. Take a deep breath in, then exhale as you extend your arms out to the side and up into the air to meet above your head. With your hands over your head and feet planted firmly on the ground, take a deep inhale, and as you exhale, bend your body to the left side. Hold this position for a breath, and then go to center to inhale again, and exhale as you bend your body to the right side and hold for a breath. Repeat four times on each side for maximum benefit.

"The deep breaths help clear your mind of distractions and helps you focus on mindful body motion," says Beckett-Wilson.

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Arch and Curl
Jennifer Daly, co-owner of Kinespirit, New York City's largest Gyrotonic and Pilates studio, says this gentle spinal motion technique is a perfect way to stretch your neck and spine before bed.

First, find a seated position with feet firmly on the floor, shoulders aligned with your hips, abdominals engaged, and spine upright and alert. From this upright position, arch the spine so that your eyes look diagonally up and your head and tailbone draw an arc behind you. Return to your upright spine, and then do the opposite, which is a curl. Round your spine so that your eyes look diagonally downward and your head and tailbone draw an arc in front of your body. Return to your upright spine.

Do this arch and curl four times each side, making sure to inhale in your upright spine and exhale when you move into your position. Move in a comfortable range of motion.

"This exercise will keep your spine moving in all of its possible ranges of motion and keep the body fluid, relaxed, and easy before bed," says Daly.

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Upper Spinal Floor Twist
For those who sit at a computer all day, Matt Hsu, posture alignment specialist, suggests this move to help restore movement to the back and relax tight chest muscles.

Lie on your side with your knees and hips bent to 90 degree angles and your arms straight out in front of you. With the arm closer to the ceiling, reach up and then behind you, twisting your upper body but still keeping your knees stacked and pressed together. Hold this stretched position and breathe into your mid and lower back. Then, repeat on the opposite side.

"This helps your shoulders relax back into their proper position and can reduce the development of a hunchback," says Hsu.

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Inverted Wall Straddle
Garcia recommends this move to improve circulation and increase hip flexibility.

To complete this stretch, lie down on your back with your hips flush to a wall. Raise your legs straight up against the wall so that your torso is at a 90 degree angle with your legs. Walk your legs out and away from each other with your heels still on the wall so that your legs are as far apart as possible. Hold this stretch for 60 seconds, and then slowly release your legs back to center.

"By raising your legs above your heart for a minute, you can reduce any leg swelling you may be battling before bed," says Garcia.

Lately, the word "full-time" has taken over my entire schedule: I have a full-time job, I'm a full-time student, and I've been a full-time health freak since this whole "new year, new you" idea started trending. So naturally, there's hardly any room to fit sleep into my jam-packed agenda. As sad as it is to say, sleep has become just another task on my checklist instead of a rejuvenating activity I need to, well...live. By the time I get home, I have just enough energy to shower, scarf down some food and watch the latest episode of "Scandal" before passing out with my iPhone in one hand and a to-do list running through my head. Basically, I'm a sleep-deprived mess.

Thankfully there's a solution to my bad sleeping habit. Truth is, sprawling out onto my bed isn't the most efficient way to get a good night's sleep and wake up feeling refreshed. After talking with personal trainers, fitness experts, and health and wellness gurus, I've learned that stretching before bed reaps way more amazing benefits than you might think.

DailyBurn fitness trainer Anja Garcia says, "Sometimes it can be hard to calm your body and your mind after a busy day. I'm a fitness trainer and pediatric nurse, so I'm always on the go. But I've found that stretching before bed is one of the best ways to wind down after a long day."

Similarly, Alice Beckett-Wilson, physical therapist and wellness expert says, "Stretching before going to bed is helpful in getting a good night's sleep, and all stretches should be done with a focus on breathing."

So if you're desperately awaiting some much-needed R&R, fluff your pillows, toss the sheets back and keep clicking to see how to prepare for the best sleep of your life.
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