Habits You Should Copy From Amazing Sleepers
Paper reading material, magnesium supplements, the right sheets, and even temperature can make all the difference when it comes to falling asleep quickly.
Published Mar 22, 2017 6:00 AM
Marilyn Monroe famously claimed to sleep between five and ten hours every night in an extra-wide single bed, donning only Chanel No. 5. While that raises a lot of questions (one being, where did her many suitors sleep, or were they shooed off?), the most salient is how that lack of consistency affected her daily routine. We know she often had a casual relationship with on-set punctuality, causing production delays, and perhaps it was from her erratic sleep schedule. So what makes for a good night’s sleep every night? We tapped successful professionals who are also excellent sleepers to share their nightfall protocols. From eating a nightly “early-bird special”-style dinner to making sure exercise is a part of their day, here are their best tips and hacks.
Deirdre Zahl Candy, Owner & Designer, Candy Shop Vintage
“I love to sleep and sometimes miss my pre-child days of sleeping in until 9, 10, or 11 a.m. on the weekends. Because I am a night person and my brain is always whirring when I need to be shutting down, I take a hot shower, get in flannel or silk pajamas, and do a face mask or some other relaxing beauty regimen. I love the Glam Glow mud mask and the Tata Harper resurfacing mask.
I try to stay off my phone after 9 p.m., as I find it hard to fall asleep after staring at a screen for hours before bed. Instead, I keep a notebook by the bed for notes I may need to follow up on via email or social media in the morning. I recently started taking melatonin, which works wonders. Some people relax with a glass of wine, but I find I actually sleep much better after a day that incorporates exercise capped off with a cup of calming tea. And in the winter time, flannel sheets are a must for feeling relaxed and cozy. “
Chase Engstrom, LiveRamp Senior Product Operations Manager
“Since eating before 7 p.m. has really improved the quality of sleep (and from what I read, my metabolism!), I’m big on eating dinner as early as possible. Because of my lack of cooking skills and irregular schedule, most often I grab dinner on my commute from Union Square.
First thing I do when I get home is fight the urge to nap. After a long day in a corporate office, a 20-minute snooze sounds amazing. In reality, it’s terrible for my sleep cycle, and I run the risk of that 20 minutes turning into seven more hours. To help fight the urge, I quickly put on gym clothes and head to the gym or, if the weather permits, I run through lower Manhattan. After exercising, I take a quick rinse in the shower using Aesop’s body cleanser and Parsley Seed line of face products (facial cleanser, toner, and hydrator; I’m big fan of Aesop’s tea tree face exfoliant, too). Then, I watch 30 minutes of Reuters News on my Apple TV while I respond to emails from our offices in later time zones.
Finally, I head to bed. The quickest way to put me to sleep is read. And I don’t mean on my iPhone. Printed books are best if I want to fall asleep ASAP.”
Kalle Simpson, The Night Pillow Co-founder
“As someone who thinks about sleep pretty much 24/7, I’ve got my nighttime routine on lock—which is especially important living in the city that never sleeps. I wash my face and apply a good amount of moisturizer because skin is most vulnerable to dehydration during the nighttime. Luckily, I can rest easy knowing that my Night Pillow is going to assist in the hydration process throughout the night. I always turn the air on in my room (even in the winter!) and set it around 67 degrees. Body temperature has to drop three degrees, and there’s research around the weight of a heavy blanket over you helping you achieve better sleep. I close my door to keep the air in and block out any light so it is pitch black in my bedroom. I use a humidifier and add eucalyptus oil drops, which promotes relaxation and helps with sinus issues that can be disruptive to sleep.
I try to get in bed by 10:30 p.m. because our natural circadian rhythms are set to a sleep time of between 10 to 6 a.m., but I would be lying if I said this happens every night—key word: *try.* I like to spend time reading in bed before falling asleep versus watching TV. Most nights, I read until I can’t keep my eyes open anymore and then immediately pass out. Lastly, I am very particular about my pillow setup (of course). I sleep with a standard-size Night Pillow behind my head and use the king size NIGHT pillow as a body pillow since I prefer to sleep on my side. Having a pillow between your legs helps side sleepers like me alleviate tension on the hips.”
Annie Thorp, MM.LaFleur Chief Marketing Officer
“I head for the bedroom around 9 or 9:15 p.m. and brush my teeth, wash my face, and use lots of nice moisturizing creams. The moisturizing cream thing is a relatively new part of my routine. I used to be pretty lazy about skincare, but in the last six months have stepped it up and am now using a face wash, toner, serum, and moisturizer. I actually really enjoy it; it feels like I’m taking all the grime and concerns of the day off, and doing something to restore me a little.
I’m in bed by 9:30. I’ve heard that this is not a best practice, but reading on my laptop or ipad for 20-30 minutes works for me. I have f.lux installed and turn the screen down to its dimmest setting. I would love to tell you that I’m reading classic literature (and sometimes I am) but more often than not, I catch up on news and events and articles that I’ve had bookmarked to read. Usually, the reading and the dim room makes me sleepy enough to fall asleep after 30 minutes or so. On nights when I feel more alert, I’ll take 3mg of melatonin, and that seems to help. I’m asleep by 10 p.m., sometimes earlier if I feel like it! I am a pretty solid sleeper, but I have two kids (ages 4 and 2) who sometimes have nocturnal needs. Most nights we get to sleep through, but some nights, there’s some back and forth to their rooms. I usually get back to sleep pretty quickly.
If there’s tossing and turning after a midnight wake-up, I try hard not to think about work or the day ahead because I know that will make it impossible to go back to sleep. I once read about how everyone should have a mental peaceful place that they go to when they’re trying to calm their brain from stress. For me, my husband and my dad are both from South Africa, and some of my happiest memories are from time we’ve spent in the early morning in the bush, looking for wild animals. I try to go there in my head: to the stillness, soft light, morning routine, nature sounds, chilly air. I am not always successful in using the ‘peaceful place’ to combat the wild ramblings of my work-connected brain, but it’s a good exercise. If I really can’t shut down work, I end up turning on a dim light and reading a bit more until I feel sleepy.
At 6 to 6:30am, I wake up. Our kids are technically not allowed to get out of bed until a little green owl lights up in their room at 6:30, but they seem to always have an excuse to barge into our room earlier. We’re working on it.”
Dan Hauber, WRIGHT Bedding Founder
“My nighttime routine has changed a bit since we just had our first child. Henry is four months old, so now bedtime starts by making sure he’s fed and changed and happy and ready for bed. Then, I take my dog, Wallace, out for his nighttime walk while my wife Sarah puts Henry down to sleep. I think of this as the official end of my day. No more thinking about work, no more stress, no more worry. Wallace and I do a lap around our neighborhood (West Village, NYC) and see if we run into any of his dog friends. Then, when I get back home we usually have another hour or so before bedtime, and so Sarah and I will talk and relax and catch up on our days. If I’m having trouble winding down then I’ll spend some time reading—real books and magazines, nothing that glows.
I used to end each day by checking back in on work, sending emails on my phone from bed, but that ends up being self-defeating. Then, it takes forever to wind down and start recovering, and you’re always going to handle things better in the morning than at night anyway. Now, I charge my phone in another room so I’m not tempted to check it once I’m heading to bed.
And as founder of a bedding company, the bed itself is really important to me. We go with a really classic look—just fresh white sheets, but will mix it up with fabrics and textures. Linen sheets in the summer feel breathable and cool. And for our cotton sheets, we just switched from a sateen weave to a plain weave percale. They feel fresh and crisp, more like a dress shirt than a t-shirt, so it feels like sleeping in a hotel bed.”
Alex Dickerson, Le Brain Founder
“If my bed is unmade or messy, I make it, so that the sheets and blankets feel organized, easy to crawl under and just generally refreshed. I love to spritz my bed and pillows with Aura Smudge—it’s a smokeless juniper sage mist that smells like a spa and is deeply relaxing. I’m a huge fan of scents and aromatherapy in general. I can’t sleep without Aromatherapy Associates Deep Relax Bath and Shower Oil—if I take a shower at night I use it, and if not I dab it on my wrists and temples after brushing my teeth.
I turn on my Himalayan salt lamp, which is supposed to absorb negative ions and energies electronics emit. I’m not sure I wholly buy into that, but it does have a very pretty and soothing warm light that makes my bedroom feel like a sanctuary.
I take magnesium pills—they help with a deeper and more restful sleep. Bonus round, I heard they also help prevent headaches! And last—and what I think is the most important thing to being a good sleeper—is that I wake up at the same time every morning. As much as I wish I could sleep in, I naturally wake up … no matter what time I go to bed. The regularity of that helps keep my internal clock set and gives me quality sleep.”
Mollie Chen, freelancer & Birchbox co-founder
“Over the years, I’ve gotten into bad habits with work and screen time bleeding into bedtime, but I’m on a mission to correct it. I try to avoid using my phone (oh, Instagram) for 30 minutes before bed and read instead—I’m almost done with George Saunders’ weird and wonderful Lincoln in the Bardo right now. If I’m feeling antsy, I’ll brew a pot of tea; I’m far from a tea person but am obsessed with Bellocq blends, especially their Ashram Afternoon. I’ve also found that putting my phone on airplane mode when it’s time for sleep is a good way to ensure that texts (usually my sister sending me cute pics of her dog) don’t get in the way of sleep.
When we moved into our new place this summer, we Marie Kondo-ed our tired old sheets and now we have a mix of Parachute, Brooklinen, and Boll & Branch. I find that having nice sheets makes a huge difference—next I’m going to upgrade our pillows.
As far as skincare, as much as I aspire to have a nine-step regimen, I’m just too lazy. I use a cleansing oil because I like how it breaks down makeup and gunk without drying my skin—currently very into Caudalie’s Makeup Removing Cleansing Oil. Then, I put on a generous amount of face oil (right now, Sunday Riley Juno Serum) and eye cream (big fan of Kiehl’s Midnight Recovery Eye). Because I’m pregnant, I also give my belly a once-over with coconut oil—just the regular organic stuff you get at the market—or Acure Rosehip oil.”
Helane Crowell, The Moment Founder
“I like to eat dinner at 5 or 5:30 p.m. Obviously, living in New York this isn’t always easy, but that’s my goal at least four nights a week. My favorite dinner is a big bowl of roasted veggies with brown rice and a tahini-lemon dressing. Around 8 p.m., I’ll put down my laptop and turn off the TV. At this point, I’m usually starting to get a little peckish so I’ll heat up some almond milk and make a warm elixir of some sort. I love how soothing it is. If it’s been a particularly hectic day, I’ll take a bath with lavender epsom salts. Before I get in, I’ll do a quick dry brushing to drain the lymphatic system. Afterward, I’ll use my centering, soul healing Jiva Apoha moisturizing oils to rehydrate my legs and arms—I have all of them, but my favorite these days is ‘spirit.’
For my face, I always start with a serum. Right now I use a Marie Veronique B3 Calming Serum (my skin is slightly inflamed at the moment from testing so many new products for The Moment—oops). Every other night I’ll use Sunday Riley Good Genes. It really makes your skin glow! Then, I’ll apply a face oil. We just shot April from Vintner’s Daughter at her vineyard at Napa, and I have officially drunk the botanical kool-aid. It’s such a fabulous product. Finally, I’ll brush my teeth with David’s Natural toothpaste and use mytongue scraper
a habit I picked up from my ayurvedic doctor.
When I climb into bed, I apply a thick lip balm like Lanolips and take some magnesium capsules to help me sleep. I always have a big glass of water next to my bed because I get really thirsty in the middle of night. I’m also addicted to my earplugs and Catbird face mask. I call it my cone of silence. Oh, and I charge my phone in the living room. That has made a huge difference in my night routine.”