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08/03/2014 11:05 am ET Updated Aug 04, 2014

The 10 Healthiest Things You Can Do In Bed

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SPECIAL FROM Grandparents.com

Wherever you live, you have an amazing piece of spa equipment that you can use to stretch, relax, calm your mind, and focus your energy. It’s your bed. After all, this is where you start each day and end each evening. Why not make it work for you?

“A morning routine gets your day going, while an evening ritual helps you relax,” says Nicole Finley, M.D., a physician at Canyon Ranch spa in Tucson, Arizona. Instead of bolting out of bed each morning (perhaps to the jarring news of the world), pushing the button on the coffee machine, and then opening your eyes, create a morning routine that awakens your body and opens your mind. In the evening, a slightly different routine can help you relax and sleep better.

Evening Rituals A good morning begins with a good night’s sleep the night before. Sleep researchers talk about “sleep hygiene” – making sure your environment is conducive for sleep. Often this advice is framed with negatives: Don’t use your bedroom for anything but sex and sleep. Don’t watch TV, look at email, stare at bright screens. That’s all true. But you can also do some positive things to help you relax. Dr. Finley recommends:
  • Breathe deeply and slowly. Everyone is different, so Dr. Finley doesn’t like to give general advice about how many seconds to count for each breath. Instead, she suggests inhaling slowly, holding your breath just for a moment, and exhaling for about twice as long as the inhalation. “You can breathe through your nose or your mouth,” she says. “Deep breathing can help ease pain and nervousness. A deep breath helps you become aware of your body. It sets your attention, and quiets the mind.”
  • Stretch. “Sitting up, with your legs folded, or with a pillow under your knees, bring your arms up and stretch to the right, and then to the left,” says Dr. Finley. “Bend forward and reach toward your toes, either with your knees bent or straight. Shrug your shoulders up and down, and roll them forward. Look over your shoulder to the left, then to the right.” She adds: “Stretching shouldn’t ever hurt.” You may want to pair gentle evening stretches with deep breathing for a relaxing experience.
  • Progressive relaxation. “Lie down, close your eyes, and think about your feet, your ankles, legs, hips, abdomen, working up to your shoulders and head, slowly,” says Dr. Finley. “When you are able to release tension in your muscles you can get to a place of sleep.”
  • Guided imagery. Visualize a peaceful place you love. But do more than just visualize, suggests Dr. Finley—use all your senses. Let’s say there’s a lake you love. Bring to mind how it looks but also the sounds of the water lapping on the shore and the birds chirping, the smell of the woods, the feel of water on your skin. You may want to purchase a guided imagery CD or download one online. “Try to engage all five of your senses,” she says.
  • Meditation. “Focus your attention on the present,” says Dr. Finley. “Instead of thinking about what stresses might have occurred, let that go. Let yourself nurture yourself. Grandparents nurture multiple generations, but may not think about nurturing themselves.”
  • Aromatherapy. Consider using a relaxing aroma such as essential oils of lavender, or lemon and orange. You can just dab a little on a cotton ball and put it on your nightstand, or buy a spray room diffuser.

Morning Routines
Surprisingly, a healthy morning routine in bed doesn’t need to be that different from a healthy evening one. Deep breathing, stretches, even meditation are great ways to gently bring focus your attention on the new morning. If lavender aromas relax you in the evening, the scent of jasmine can be energizing in the morning. “When you wake up, you’re setting your attention,” says Dr. Finley. “You may want to read something positive, a book or something you’ve written.”

Turn on some music you like. The news can wait. While you’re lying in bed, breathing deeply and stretching, there’s no harm if the music gets you shimmying. You can do the same bed stretches as you do the night before, but now you may want to slip your feet to the floor and sit up in bed while you do them.

One Woman’s Way
For freelance health writer Mary Bolster, former executive editor of Yoga Journal, the morning and evening routines are pretty similar. “The things I do before getting out of bed, or before going to sleep, work for me—either time of the day,” she says.

She suggests a few yoga-ish moves:
  • Hug your knees to your chest, and rock backward and forward gently, from the nape of your neck to your butt.
  • Pull your knees to your chest, and twist to either side.
  • Try the “Happy Baby” pose: Lie on your back, bring your knees to your chest, and, reaching between your legs, grab your big toes with your hands, pressing your knees toward the bed.
  • Do cow/cat poses: Get on all fours, curve your back toward the ceiling on an inhale, then sink into a gentle arch toward the bed on an exhale.

Mary also likes to start (and end) each day in bed practicing gratitude. “Resting in bed and practicing gratitude is a great way to start the day,” she says. She lies in bed and enumerates things that she is grateful for.
She starts with this one: “I woke up this morning.”

Read more from Grandparents.com:
8 red-flag symptoms that could mean major health problems
5 things that make your feet hurt -- and how to fix them
What your hands reveal about your health

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