Nothing feels quite as amazing as a nice stretch in the morning right after, or even before, you roll out of bed. It's simply an instinctive thing to do when you've been curled up in dreamland for (hopefully) eight hours. But believe it or not, there's actually some real biological reasoning behind why stretching feels so good in the morning that might just encourage you to take a few extra moments after that initial yawn with your arms over your head. After all, why wouldn't you want to give yourself a little extra feel-good me time before the start of the day?
First of all, speaking of the whole yawning-with-your-arms-over-your-head thing, this specific movement that so many of us do as soon as we wake up actually has a name, and it's called "pandiculating." According to a video from the YouTube channel SciShow, pandiculation specifically means stretching while yawning, and it's a response that helps the body wake up. Think of it as a kind of bodily "reboot," if you will, as well as a way for you to transition back into the land of the living after being in dreamland for several hours. Since you lie in the same position for most of the night, says SciShow's Hank Green, your body becomes stiff, and you naturally feel the need to move things around a bit.
The action of stretching loosens and re-aligns your muscles, letting your body know that it's time to get a move on for the day.
Science writer Luis Villazon had a particularly interesting explanation for morning stretches in Science Focus, the online home of BBC Focus magazine, when a reader asked why, exactly, people do this. Villazon answered,
When you sleep, your muscles lose tone and fluid tends to pool along your back. Stretching helps to massage fluid gently back into the normal position.
He added that muscles protect themselves from over-extending by "inhibiting the nerve impulses as they approach their limit." The act of stretching in the morning essentially "re-calibrates" your body's ability to determine its range of motion, Villazon explained.
And, as Nicholas Licameli, a physical therapist at Professional Physical Therapy, tells Elite Daily, stretching in the morning can "improve blood flow" and "decrease stress before the day." This is because the movement activates your parasympathetic nervous system, aka the system generally responsible for your body's ability to rest, digest, and recover.
However, Licameli tells Elite Daily he doesn't recommend statically stretching "cold muscles" as soon as you wake up.
"A light dynamic warm-up should be performed prior to static stretching," says Licameli. "This can be any dynamic stretching routine [things like repeated squats, lunges, or high knees], or even things as simple as going for a walk, negotiating a few flights of stairs, or anything that gets the heart rate up."
That being said, once you find the right movements, Licameli does recommend using this time in the morning to warm up your muscles and get them nice and stretched to help you start your day.
"Stretching can be a great way to center and prepare yourself physically and mentally before the rush of the day," he explains. "Too many times, we neglect the parasympathetic nervous system and therefore, physical and mental rest and recovery. We wake up, jump out of bed, rush to the shower, frantically get dressed, and grab a cup of coffee as we run out the door. Add in a stressful commute, sandwiching a hectic work day, and we can see how it is so easy to neglect rest and recovery."
Now that you know just how good it is to stretch it out first thing in the a.m., it's time to make a playlist to accompany your routine. Get to it!