pilates for a deeper better sleep!

August 18, 2013

With the move fast, work hard, multi-tasking culture we live in and go through, sometimes heading to bed in a frazzled state keeps us awake all night. Joseph Pilates – the founder of Pilates – said: “It is better to be tired from physical exertion than to be fatigued by the “poisons” generated by nervousness while lying awake.”  Deep muscle relaxation in Pilates exercises reduces psychological tension, reducing anxiety as well as the treatment of muscular tension, insomnia, depression, fatigue, irritable bowels, muscle spasms, muscle guarding, neck and back pain, high blood pressure and stuttering.  Joseph recommends getting out of bed and practicing a couple of extremely relaxing Pilates exercises as we introduce to you in our article below as well as the best advice on side/back/front sleepers and the type of pillow to aim for. We hope you get a more restful and relaxing sleep after reading (and practicing) this article:

Suffering from lack of quality sleep or insomnia?

Suffering from lack of quality sleep or insomnia?

The Effects of Sleep Deprivation

The Effects of Sleep Deprivation

You might resonate with some of the above symptoms from lack of sleep. Practice these exercises that can naturally  introduce a more restful, healthier and deeper sleep:

Wall Roll Down:

The Wall Roll Down helps in stretching your back as well as hamstrings.
You can modify it slightly by going down as long as you feel comfortable with it, by bending your knees slightly or leaving your arm at your sides.
Enjoy the ‘pause’ at the bottom of the sequence (step 5) – hold it there for a couple of deep breaths before you slowly make your way back up. Repeat 10 times.

Pilates Roll Down

Pilates Roll Down


Pelvic Curl:

Lying on a flat ground – this is a great spinal decompression and therapeutic backbend. It also trains your body and helps in the co-ordination of movement and breathing.

Pilates Pelvic Curl

Pilates Pelvic Curl


Spine Stretch:

This is a stretch for the whole spine, especially the neck and upper back.
Modifications that you can introduce in Spine Stretch: In case your hamstrings are a little tight, you can use an elevated position, like sitting on a small towel. In addition to the mat and towel method, you can also do the Spine Stretch Forward against a wall.

Pilates Spine Stretch

Pilates Spine Stretch

Here are some of Joseph Pilates’ practical tips for a good night sleep:

  • “A quiet, cool, well-ventilated room is best”
  • Use a “firm but not soft mattress”
  • “Use the lightest possible bed covering consistent with warmth”
  • “Do not use large bulky pillows (or as some do, two stacked pillows) – better still, use none at all”
  • And most importantly “mental calm” – which can be achieved through regular physical exercise


We then did a bit more research into the type of sleeping positions and the pillow to match:

It’s really important to find the best pillow ( according to your physique and sleep position ) which will depress beneath your head and give enough support under your neck so that your spine stays aligned.

So how can we best use pillows to support our back and neck whilst sleeping?


When sleeping on the back, a pillow should support the natural curvature of the cervical spine ( neck area ), with enough support under the head, neck, and shoulders.

The height of the pillow should be lower than when sleeping in a sideways position as you don’t want to create a forward head posture!

Placing a small pillow under the knees helps to reduce the load on the lower back. Some people prefer to have a couple of pillows so that the knees are elevated higher.

This keeps the lumbar spine flatter therefore putting less force on the pain sensitive facet joints of the spine.


When sleeping on your side, a pillow should support the head and neck so that the spine maintains a straight and natural horizontal line.

Cervical or orthopaedic pillows are contoured to fill the spaces under the head and neck, for maximum support.

Some people find placing a small cushion between bent knees helps to prevent the spine and pelvis from twisting.

When there is no support between the legs, the upper leg rotates downward, pulling the pelvis, and distorting the natural line of the spine.

Weight should be evenly distributed between the head, shoulders, hips and legs.
For women with large hips and a small waist try placing a very small cushion or rolled up towel underneath the waist to prevent slumping down in that area.

( This actually feels really comfortable! )


If you prefer to sleep on your stomach, the pillow should be relatively flat, or the head should rest directly on the mattress, so that the head and neck aren’t turned unnaturally to either side. In this position, you can try placing another relatively flat pillow under the stomach to help keep the spine in it’s neutral alignment.

This is not the best position to sleep in as it constantly applies pressure to a rotated cervical spine often encouraging excessive lumbar lordosis ( over arched lower back )

The wrong spinal position during sleep can be the cause of various health problems and generally a bad health condition or even mood.
It’s worth learning how to use pillows correctly to provide adequate neck and back support so that you wake up fully rested, pain free and full of energy!

Learning Pilates helps create an awareness of correct body/spinal alignment which is important for a good night’s rest.So all that said, we encourage you to practice Pilates for a restful nights sleep. It might not reduce your worries or stress but it definitely helps to calm your mind therefore a calmer breath and a more relaxed body to curl into bed. We offer numerous classes at The Hundred Pilates Studio in Dubai focusing on small group sessions and private one-on-one sessions giving you the best treatment and guidance. Visit our website and check out our latest schedule at :