Pre-Sleep Training Program

By Daniel Batchelor, DC

Dr. Batchelor:

My name is Jamie and I have been a runner for the past 14 years. I run 20-30 miles per week in addition to my cross-training program (biking, swimming, weight training), but my true love has always been running and this will never change.

Now that I am over 40 years of age, I have noticed that my stride length is beginning to shorten quite dramatically, and my muscles and joints just don't feel as flexible as they once did. My running partner is a patient of yours and she says you can help me. Can you recommend any stretches or exercises or chiropractic techniques that can help to restore my lost flexibility?


We all become less flexible with age if we don't stretch frequently, but there are ways to diminish this loss of flexibility. Aging might be inevitable, but lost flexibility is not. Every night for the past 20 years or more, I have made it a policy to lift weights for five minutes, stretch for 10 minutes, and do abdominal exercises for five minutes just before I lie down to go to sleep. There is a logical reason for the timing of this simple 20-minute workout.

Morning stretchers and exercisers get injured much easier than evening stretchers and exercisers. Why? In the morning, after moving very little for the past six to eight hours, your tendons and muscles are shorter, tighter and have less blood circulating through them than in the evening. This makes them much easier to traumatize during morning stretching and strengthening exercises. By comparison, at the end of the day, after moving, bending, twisting, lifting and walking all day long, your tendons and muscles are more pliable, have greater circulation, and are more flexible and less likely to become injured. Stretching a cold muscle can cause microscopic tears and the development of scar tissue. Scar tissue is not very flexible. If you have the option, stretch in the evening.

If you race, it is impossible to avoid morning stretching, but the short evening workout before bed will make your pre-race stretch much more efficient. If you stretch before bed, you will notice improved flexibility when you step out of bed in the morning. I feel better now in the mornings than I did when I was 20 years of age. Preparing your body for sleep and for the next day should be a lifelong habit. It begins every night before hitting the sack and it is very important if you want to maintain flexibility throughout your life.

The strongest patient I have ever treated is also one of the Peachtree Road Race record-holders for number of times of participation. His stride length has shortened so dramatically over the years that now when he runs, his stride is considered a short shuffle. The reason is not only genetic. He loves to run and lift weights, but he has never stretched to supplement his workouts. This loss of flexibility is beginning to catch up with him and cause problems. Over the years, his running and weight lifting have become less enjoyable. Together, we have been able to restore 60 percent of his lost range of motion. He is the most difficult patient to treat because of his mesomorphic structure and because of this severe loss of flexibility. However, he now maintains a consistent pre-bedtime workout program.

Another patient of mine entered the clinic recently with a question. He asked me how I was able to be a doctor of chiropractic for 26 years and not suffer from injuries as a result of the hard work I do treating patients. He said he knew several doctors of chiropractic who could not practice anymore because of injuries they sustained while treating patients. While practicing chiropractic is a physically demanding profession, I feel my pre-bedtime evening workouts have played a vital role in keeping me injury-free.

You might be concerned about the fact that exercising too close to bedtime could affect your ability to sleep. You are not raising your heart rate substantially; therefore, your ability to sleep will not be affected. In fact, the workout will help you sleep better. You also will notice that when you get up in the morning, you will be much more flexible.

Over the years, many of our joints can become less pliable and can begin to move with less range of motion. Eventually, they actually can seize up. Examples are seen in the neck. When I X-ray a patient's cervical spine from the side, I can see fibrotic adhesions beginning to form in addition to decreased joint spaces and primary stages of degeneration. Any joint in the body can lose its normal range of motion over time. Chiropractic manipulation can restore lost joint mobility and provide the increased range of motion we once had.

Remember that your body gets stronger during the rest phase, not while exercising. My pre-bedtime training program will help your body get stronger and more flexible. Perform this 20-minute program each night for the next 30 nights. This will set a pattern for you to maintain for the rest of your life.

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