PART-2, tried and tested tips for getting restful sleep and reducing morning stiffness when living with ankylosing spondylitis

sleeping-on-the-sofa-with-AS-BW

 

Why we need to work on getting better sleep

For people with AS it is even more important to be able to sleep because the body needs the time between 10pm/ 2am to repair physically and to sort out thoughts and emotions between 2am and 6am.

I generally do not advocate taking any medications, but when things get really bad, an aspirin can save the night allowing a fresh start the next day.

 

 

Pre-bed routine

This is something that everyone who cares about their performance during the day should establish. I educate all my holistic personal training clients in Leeds of the importance of having rhythm in their life, the body loves to go to bed at the same time every night of the week. Your mind will gift you with restorative sleep when your bedroom is a dark and quiet, clutter free sanctuary.

Set aside 30 minutes to an hour for your pre-bed wind down.

 

Here’s a quick list of things you can try. You don’t have to do all of them, choose something that works for you.

 

  • Read a book with dimmed lights or get yellow lensed glasses (chose something that doesn’t excite you too much)
  • Listen to an audio book (just like when we were children…)
  • Meditate, guided meditations such as headspace can calm the monkey mind and release muscular tension
  • Play tranquil music
  • Take a magnesium salt bath or supplement
  • Gentle mobility exercises working with your breath
  • Gently Stretching the muscles that are tight on you (your body will then repair the tissue in the lengthened state helping you become more flexible)
  • Lying on an acupressure mat for 20min can help induce relaxation and increase endorphins that help reduce sensation of pain
  • You can create a sleep affirmation like this: “I enjoy deep refreshing sleep all through the night.” (Affirmations work best if you create your own. Use present tense stating the result you want to see as if they are already happening and you are your announcing them officially)
  • Drinking a camomile tea
  • Adding a drop of lavender oil onto your pillow
  • Abdominal breathing exercise, every cell in your body is going to thank you for an increase in oxygen delivery.

 

When you build a routine for the body, it recognises what you want it to do just like when you train your children to go to bed at the same time each night.

 

Be like a cat

I think overall a body that has AS loves change, so don’t beat yourself up if you wake up at 1am after only 3hours of sleep.

I usually get the kettle boiled for a hot water bottle and find myself a new place to sleep such as my sofa.

It’s a bit like being a cat waking up; having a stretch and a move around checking everything in the house is still where it should be and then finding a new warm place to settle.

If noise such as a ticking clock  is stopping you from getting back to sleep, move the clock or remove the batteries, you don’t need to tell the time at night you need sleep.

I sometimes play a guided meditation called Headspace, it gives me something to focus on and the practice relaxes my body. I call that sleepytation…

 

Morning routine

Even people that do not suffer with AS need a little time to get going in the morning. Give your self the time you need to get your stiff joints moving.

Taking a warm or hot shower can help stimulate the blood flow and warm the muscles.

When I was struggling badly, I discovered that doing the dishes and tidying the kitchen gave me a reason to move around and achieve something I would appreciate afterwards.

Being in pain that stops you from moving or getting things done can make you feel useless and depressed. Find something that includes movement that you can do without causing yourself more pain will give you a purpose and a distraction.

In my experience pushing yourself to do exercise that you are not ready for at the beginning of the day can delay becoming looser and more mobile as triggering pain signalling may just increase the muscle spasms and tension rather than promoting loosening.

My trusted hot water bottle also helped me soothe over the pain in the mornings propped between my back and the sofa.

You could try to establish a gentle mind-body exercise practice such as Tai Chi Qigong, which get the joints lubricated, increases your range of motion and provides a gentle stretch without the pulling sensation of traditional stretching.

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You will have to take some time to try out the different options to see which one works for you body and mind.

If you struggle to establish a morning routine with the suggestions above, feel free to get in touch to get help finding some fresh ideas.

 

Playing catch up

Depending on how your day-to-day arrangements are, you can incorporate extra naps in the afternoon.

I am a freelancer working on 3 businesses of which two are executed from home, so when I get tired in the afternoon due to lack of sleep at night, I have another guided Headspace meditation and let myself fall asleep.

Now generally we are not supposed to let ourself fall asleep during meditation, but I think in the life of an AS person where good quality sleep is hard to come by so we need to take it when we can. I don’t see why we should feel guilty or inadequate by not sticking to the rules in this case.

I say if it improves how you feel, do it.

You may have to build your life around the needs of your body until your body trusts you to do the right thing and supports you by getting better. Be kind to yourself, healing takes time.

 

Personal guidance available

These are just a few of the noninvasive, natural ways to manage pain and muscle aches that I show my holistic personal training clients in Leeds. I look forward to sharing more of the methods I use and teach in future posts.

If you are looking for support in your journey, I would be delighted to work with you.

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