POPSUGAR's How Does She Sleep at Night takes a peek under the covers of admirable women's wind-down routines to reveal their nightstand staples, sleep schedules, and dream lives.
Most of us recognize that getting good sleep is a privilege. But as activist and organizer Ai-jen Poo points out, it's also a human right — a right that too many women are denied. As the cofounder and executive director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance, which works to bring dignity and fairness to caregivers, she knows that firsthand. Before the pandemic, domestic workers were already underpaid and overworked. During the pandemic, that crisis was only amplified.
"As people started to lose their jobs and income, [they] started to worry about how they were going to put food on the table for their kids, or keep themselves and their families safe while they continued to work," Poo said. "It's just been so many impossible choices. And I think it's a testament to how resilient and strong women are, because here we are, and there's millions of us still standing. And millions of essential care workers still going to work every single day, holding up our families."
But while the past year has been a testament to resilience, Poo's work aims to better the circumstances that so often require that resilience. So how does she juggle her own activist work and still get the rest she needs in order to show up for others? Read on to find out.
The Sleep Advice That Stuck With Her
"A few years ago, somebody told me that sleep is the time when your experiences become memory. They become compressed, and they become a part of you. And if you're not getting good sleep, how do you remember where you came from and what lessons you need to carry forward?" Poo said. Poo tries to be in bed by 11 p.m. every night, even if she falls short on other self-care intentions like working out, so she can get at least a solid seven hours of sleep.
On How the Pandemic Changed Her Wind-Down Routine
Poo said that since the pandemic, she's been relying more on sleep aids to drift off. "Melatonin has always given me a hangover, so I don't use that," she said. "But I do have this Deep Sleep potion ($14). That's an herbal potion that has worked really well for me. And I keep a glass of water by my bed, put the little droplets, and have that every night."
Burrowing Into "The Nest"
"I love my bed. I call it the nest because it is a sanctuary for me," Poo said. "And I like to have multiple beverages around me in case I get thirsty at night. So I have my Sleepytime Tea ($2), and I have a glass of water, and sometimes I have bubbly water, too."
Poo is a diehard fan of Kiehl's Midnight Recovery Oil ($52) "It's super multicorrective stuff. And it smells good, and it feels good," she said. "And then I have these Korean face masks that you can put on while you watch a documentary. It's Real Nature ($2). You can find them in Asian grocery stores, Korean grocery stores. But the Korean face masks are my favorite."
On Protecting Our Sleep Post-Pandemic
Poo, who plays several high-profile roles in activism and advocacy, is also the cohost of the podcast Sunstorm with fellow organizer Alicia Garza. On the first episode of their newest season, the two ponder the question "what's next?" For Poo, one answer to that question has to do with reimagining rest. Before the pandemic, she frequently hopped on predawn flights to NYC or Washington DC, and estimates she got fewer than six hours of sleep most nights of the week. "I've been thinking a lot about how the pandemic has given us just a different lens on life, and it has revealed so many things that were hard to see in the previous status quo," Poo said. "I really want to make sure that we cement and keep that visibility of the things that we see now really clearly and build from there. Because I think if we build from there, what we return to will be so much better than what we left behind. And that probably includes sleep."