5 things to help you sleep

We all know the importance of a good sleep, particularly when you are also trying to deal with health conditions. Today I want to share some of the things I use to get the best night’s sleep I can, even during a flare-up.

None of the links in this post are sponsored; these are just things I have tried and really like. They aren’t going to cure insomnia, but they might help someone who is just having a bit of trouble.

Getting shut-eye

Many people find it hard to sleep in a room without total darkness. I’m not one of them, but I do have a lot of trouble keeping my eyes closed. They like being open. And when they’re open, they like looking at things, which is not helpful when I am trying to fall asleep. Accordingly, I wear a blindfold/sleep mask at night.

Some people prefer a style that doesn’t place pressure on the eyes – this one seems to come pretty highly recommended – but due to my aforementioned issue with keeping my eyes shut, I like one that rests on the eyelids. I prefer mine thick and squashy with no harsh edges digging in, like this one from Peter Alexander, or this one from Kmart.

Those who don’t want anything on their face at all may prefer to explore options such as blackout curtains, and, if they have electronics in their rooms, covering the lights with dimming stickers.

The nose knows

Whenever I find myself entering a rut where I’m struggling to get to sleep multiple days in a row, I always go back to certain rituals that help me sleep, because my body associates them with sleep. One of our most powerful senses for associating one thing with another is the sense of smell. Certain scents to me – lavender, chamomile, and clean fabric, for example – immediately say to me “sleep”. Finding scents that make your brain go “mmm…sleepy” can be really helpful in getting you in the right headspace. My favourite thing to use is Lush’ ‘Sleepy’ lotion. You might find a body wash, pillow spray, or essential oil that triggers a similar reaction in you.

Under pressure

Weighted blankets sort of blew up as a trend in the last few years, but they have a very legitimate purpose in calming people. When I feel the weight of mine settle over me, I start to relax instantly. The gentle pressure feels like it makes things hurt less. That may be entirely a placebo, but I don’t care – it works for me. Mine is 11kg, and I wish I could go heavier, but it’s best to start lighter and work up for your first one (I started with 6kg). The general guidance is not to go heavier than 10% of your body weight (although I find that is not enough for me). Here’s a good article on picking the right one for you (FWIW, glass beads are much more environmentally friendly).

Hit it where it hurts

Even in hot weather, heat is the only thing that does anything for my endo pain. Keeping the room cool and using my plug-in Heat Buddy electric heating pad does so much to help soothe my pelvis and let me relax enough to sleep. It’s not going to cure pain, or even get me to sleep during a really bad flare-up, but when I’m just experiencing that aching discomfort that plagues those of us with endo, this thing is a life-saver. Similarly, when I have back pain, I swear by the Deep Heat back patches.

A bedtime story

Normally, I like to fall asleep in the quiet. Sometimes, however, that just doesn’t work for me, and I turn to a guided meditation. I’ve written about Sleep Cycle before – they have some guided meditations to take you to sleep. My favourite is Body Guide by Kina Nyman. However, when I’m really struggling to sleep and Kina has failed me, I turn to the weird, rambling drones of the Sleep With Me podcast. I tend to skip the introduction, which is relatively wakeful, and jump straight into the strange stories that follow. Their dreamlike quality soon has my brain drifting into my own surreal subconscious.

Of course, these things are all supplementary to the usual “sleep well” advice, like drinking plenty of water (something I’m excellent at doing), not looking at screens an hour before bed (something I’m terrible at doing), and having a strong bed-time ritual to help signal to your body that it’s time to get ready for sleep (something I’m pretty patchy at doing…which sort of defeats the purpose).

In addition to the above I’ve also tried things like moon milk, which was nice enough but really didn’t seem to affect my sleep, and sleep supplements like valerian (smelly and useless) and melatonin (much more effective, but leaves me groggy the next day). I don’t want to recommend trying supplements, though, as I think that is a very personal decision that is best explored in consultation with a health professional.

I hope some of these recommendations can be useful to my fellow spoonies! Sleep well, and sweet dreams.

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