I don't just love sleep — and I mean really, who hates to sleep, except maybe your fussy 3-year-old? — I also view it as a necessary tool in my healthy routine. As someone who lives with bipolar II, I know I need to get quality sleep in order to function at my best and take care of my mental health. I make sure to get at least seven hours of sleep a night. And since I'm usually up between 5 a.m. and 5:30 a.m. to work out before I go into the office, that means I need to be fully snoozing by about 10:30 p.m.
For a lot of young and busy New Yorkers, that seems impossibly early. What about after-work events? That Netflix show you are binging? How can you peel yourself away from Instagram and actually fall asleep? I have a pretty specific wind-down routine that helps me relax from the busy day and get ready to sleep. I should add, I'm also pretty genetically blessed when it comes to sleep: I've never really had trouble falling asleep, except when I'm in a manic phase, and I don't typically wake up often in the middle of the night. I've never needed to take ZzzQuil or melatonin for sleep. But I also credit these five things for helping me doze off at a reasonable hour.
I Stop Drinking Coffee by Noon
I have a pretty high caffeine tolerance anyway, and usually have about two cups a day, but I always make sure to stop drinking it by noon that day so it doesn't interfere with my sleep later that night. "Caffeine can last for as long as six to eight hours and it can disrupt the sleep architecture," explained Alon Avidan, MD, MPH, director of the UCLA Sleep Disorders Center, in a previous interview.
I Take a Bath
I'm a big fan of baths. I don't usually take them to feel clean, per se (if I'm really sweaty and gross, I'll take a full shower), but they do help me feel relaxed. I usually hop in the tub after dinner and dishes, typically around 8:30 p.m. or 9 p.m., and use a lavender-scented bubble bath. I soak for about 20 minutes and try to unwind from the day.
I Drink Chamomile Tea
I love drinking tea at night to help de-stress, and my favorite is the CBD Chamomile Blend from Buddha Teas. Although there are only five milligrams of CBD per bag (which is not that much — I take about 30 milligrams a day in a tincture), the chamomile is calming and soothing. It has helped relieve my anxiety in the past, and at night it helps me wind down and get ready for sleep.
I Stop Looking at Electronics
"We find that a lot of people bring electronics into the bedroom and have the cellphone and all kinds of electronic devices that emit light, which tends to disrupt the sleep and wake cycle," Dr. Avidan said. Like most people, I can find myself mindlessly scrolling through Instagram and Twitter for way longer than I need to. I end up down the rabbit hole of people's Instagram Stories and waste time looking up random facts on Wikipedia (did you know a guinea pig is also called a domestic cavy?), which means more screen time for my eyes that can ultimately interfere with getting quality sleep. By about 9:30 p.m., I make sure my alarms are set and put my phone on the charger. I make an effort not to look at it again until the next morning.
I Read a Book
After my skincare routine (cleanse, tone, and moisturize), my favorite part of my wind-down routine is reading a book in bed. Since I'm not looking at my phone or watching TV (we don't have a TV in the bedroom), it doesn't put strain on my eyes and I can truly focus and relax. The act of reading itself and being in bed is enough to lull me to sleep — I can usually only make it a few pages before my eyes get heavy and I'm ready to head off into dreamland.