5 Sleep Aids I've Been Using

I've been having trouble sleeping the past few months; the insomnia is likely related to my natural night owl tendencies, but also to the fact that I'm seriously anxious — about COVID, about not having health insurance, about the politics in America, about pretty much everything.

And guess what? None of this does a body good. Stress is like fuel for the ankylosing spondylitis monster within me. It just makes everything worse: More pain. More stiffness. More fatigue. You get the drift.

Sip some valerian tea

I'm big on tea, just because it can be a really relaxing tool for relaxation. It marks the start of a break, and it requires a bit of stillness. At night I like to brew up valerian tea (my personal fave is Celestial Seasoning's Sleepy Time Tea Extra with Valerian). According to the journal Nature and Science of Sleep, valerian is used to "ameliorate chronic and non-restorative sleep," and "to alleviate restlessness and anxiety."1

Play some ASMR

I know that everyone has a different take on ASMR videos — and I get it. You either hate whispering sounds or have misophonia (where certain sounds trigger emotional or physiological responses that make you feel, well, awful) or you love it. I personally love ASMR, which is a phenomenon in which certain sounds make you feel relaxed, sleepy, or comforted. There are a bevy of really well-directed ASMR videos on YouTube that feature cool storylines and cinematic design — and they help whisk me off into another world while not asking too much from me mentally.

Try CBD bath bombs

I love CBD oil and have written a lot about its real benefits. However, there are times when I don't want to take CBD but still desire its relief — so I get into a warm CBD bath. I use Baked Beauty's CBD bath salts (which are a little pricy, for sure, though I am sure there are many reputable CBD bath brands; just be sure to read reviews first!). Not only is this uber-relaxing, but the CBD also takes the edge off my muscular pain. If you can get into the tub, I recommend it.

Use a heating pad

I've been using a heating pad as of late, especially on days when my hips or back are really bad. It's nice to simply shut the lights off, light a candle, put on some music or a distracting movie, and let the heating pad work its magic. I have a smaller hot water bottle container that also is really nice to sleep with if my neck is in a lot of pain. Build a heating pad into your ritual — it's also really nice before and after stretching before bedtime.

Have a painsomnia backup plan

I recommend having a back-up plan on nights when you're tossing and turning. There's a lot of evidence that staying in bed waiting for sleep to just happen can be really harmful to our sleep health. The Sleep Foundation recommends the following:

"If you get into bed and cannot fall asleep after 20 minutes, get up, go to another part of your house, and do something soothing, such as reading or listening to quiet music." Why? "Lying awake in bed for too long can create an unhealthy mental connection between your sleeping environment and wakefulness."2

Sometimes I get up, unroll my yoga mat, and do a series of very gentle stretches by the light of my salt lamp. Other times, I read a book (not on my bright iPhone!) and have a cup of tea. It doesn't always work, but being mindful about painsomnia can reduce the misery.

What helps you sleep? I'd love to hear it.

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