Pilates Exercises for Better Sleep

Sleep Tips from Joseph Pilates

A good night's sleep is important.
A good night's sleep is important.. John Fedele/Blend Images/Getty Images

How can you get better sleep in today's busy world? When insomnia sets in, or we need a deeper sleep than we're getting, it can be frustrating, especially for those seeking natural sleep aids rather pills. Joseph Pilates, the founder of the Pilates Method of Exercise, had a holistic approach to fitness and he wrote tips for getting better sleep.

In his book Return to Life Through Contrology Joseph Pilates provides definite advice on how to sleep better.

There is much health advice beyond exercise in that power-packed little book, but for now, let me give you the sleep tips and exercises Joseph Pilates recommends.

Set Your Sleep Environment

  • Pilates says the room should be cool, quiet, well ventilated, and dark
  • The mattress should be firm.
  • Avoid bulky pillows.
  • Use the lightest covering it takes to be warm.

Mental Calm Through Exercise for Better Sleep

But beyond those tips for the physical sleep environment, Joseph Pilates says the most important element of better and deeper sleep is mental calm.

A troubled nervous system, Pilates says, can be alleviated with exercise. Regular exercise is frequently recommended by experts as a natural way of overcoming sleep problems, but what if you still can't sleep? Pilates has this advice: Get up and exercise. That's not a tip you hear from many other sleep experts.

Now this is where it gets interesting: Joseph Pilates specifically suggests spinal rolling exercises for better and deeper sleep.

The rolling and unrolling exercises, he says, massage the spine, relax the nerves, help cleanse the body, and restore natural flexibility of the spine.

This quote encapsulates Joseph Pilates' view of sleep and exercise: "It is better to be tired from physical exertion than to be fatigued by the poisons generated by nervousness while lying awake."

Pilates Exercises for Better Sleep

Here are some easy Pilates rolling and unrolling exercises might try before bed or if you have trouble sleeping during the night:

The Pilates Bed?

No article about Pilates and sleep would be complete without mentioning that along with the many amazing pieces of fitness equipment Joseph Pilates invented, he also invented a bed. He claimed it was the most ergonomic and healthful for sleeping. The bed was basically a wide wedge. Maybe it was too unusual, maybe it didn't work. In any case, it wasn't a big hit though some people still experiment with the plans.

And, if you decide to stay in bed, here are 6 Pilates Exercises You Can Do in Bed. This article includes a diagram of Joe's wedge bed.

Bottom Line on Pilates' Sleep Advice

Today's sleep doctors and their guidelines don't necessarily agree with what Joseph Pilates advised. But what works for you to get better sleep may vary from the standard recommendations.

If you need better sleep but still haven't been able to achieve it, you may want to see if Joseph Pilates was right.

Sources:

Return to Life Through Contrology, J. Pilates

Younstedt, "The Effects of Exercise on Sleep, Clin. Sports Med. 2005 Apr;24(2):355-65, xi.

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