Sleep Experts All Do These 6 Things Before Bed — Do You?
For the past six months, our series The Wind Down has shared the bedtime routines that help health experts get their best rest. While each routine is unique (sometimes extremely so), many are united by a few key common threads. From biohackers to breathwork teachers, health professionals of all stripes take the following steps to support their sleep:
They start their sleep routines in the morning.
Many health pros start thinking about winding down the moment they wake up. They do this because the morning hours are prime time to regulate our internal clocks and support a steady sleep-wake cycle. Once the sun goes down, avoiding light as much as possible is the name of the game.
"I have learned to pay a lot of attention to the role that light plays in regulating my circadian rhythm," Ellen Vora, M.D., writes in her routine. "I make a point of getting actual sunshine into my actual eyeballs as early in the morning as possible, and I wear blue-blocking glasses from sunset until bedtime to block out blue-spectrum light that would otherwise suppress my melatonin and disrupt my circadian rhythm."
Beyond five to 10 minutes of light exposure, a few popular "windup" rituals the experts share include taking a cold shower and visualizing how they want the day ahead to go.
They track their sleep in one way or another.
Nearly 50% of the experts featured currently use an Oura ring or another type of sleep-tracking device, while the other half judge their sleep quality based on how they feel in the morning. All of them agree that keeping tabs on sleep in some form or fashion is helpful for identifying the habits that most hinder rest.
They don't stress over one bad night of sleep.
That said, experts agree that one night with a low sleep score isn't the end of the world. As clinical psychologist and sleep specialist Shelby Harris, PsyD, DBSM, writes in her routine: "One of my big issues with how sleep is portrayed in our current culture is the idea of perfection, that you 'need' to get optimal sleep quality and duration every single night. But the reality is that this is not possible for the vast majority of people. There's variation from night to night, and that's normal."
Everyone we've polled also admits to the occasional bad bedtime habit. Drinking wine late at night, watching TV in bed, and scrolling on Reddit until the wee hours of the morning are all things they do from time to time. This shows there's no shame in straying from your sleep routine. It's about progress, not perfection.
They take sleep supplements.
Even those with the healthiest habits can use a little help in the sleep department every now and again. Sleep supplements featuring magnesium have come up quite a bit throughout the series. And it makes sense: The mineral has been shown to improve sleep duration and sleep efficiency1 and make it easier to fall asleep quickly2.* Plus, it's a safe, nonhormonal alternative to more disruptive sleep aids like melatonin.
Along with relaxing jujube and calming PharmaGABA®, magnesium is a star ingredient in mindbodygreen's own nightly sleep aid, sleep support+. This gentle yet powerful supplement is what mbg's co-founder and co-CEO Colleen Wachob credits with helping her get back on track after decades of struggling to fall asleep. "They take about two hours to kick in and make me feel pleasantly sleepy," she writes of the capsules in her routine.*
They don't eat too close to bedtime.
No matter their ideal bedtime, the experts we've featured aim to eat dinner at least three hours before lights out. This gives their bodies ample time to digest their final meal, improving sleep quality. It also sets them up nicely for time-restricted eating—another habit that many of them share. "I stop eating three hours before bed—so by 6:30 p.m. on most nights. I have done a lot of research and personal experimentation with time-restricted eating, and I really believe it is one of the best free tools we have to improve metabolism and gene health," Amy Shah, M.D., says in her routine.
Of course, eating early won't be possible every night, and on the occasion that model and wellness aficionado Kate Bock needs to dine later, she just chooses foods that are easier to digest. For her, that's a vegan dinner.
They take sleep seriously.
"I know—not only from the strong scientific evidence but also from my own personal experiences—that sleep is truly the foundation on which healthy lifestyles and health itself rests," sleep researcher Wendy Toxel, Ph.D., writes in her routine. While getting by on a few hours of rest used to be a badge of honor, these routines show that getting more sleep is really what's worth the bragging rights. From a neuroscientist who needs sleep to feel sharp to a dietitian who finds that she is more compassionate with her patients after a solid snooze, all of these experts agree: Sleep is essential for success.
Though bedtime looks a little different for the dozens of sleep and health experts featured in our Wind Down series so far, they all agree that a few small habits can go a long way in ensuring the type of sleep that sets the foundation for a fulfilling day.
Emma Loewe is the Sustainability and Health Director at mindbodygreen and the author of Return to Nature: The New Science of How Natural Landscapes Restore Us. She is also the co-author of The Spirit Almanac: A Modern Guide To Ancient Self Care, which she wrote alongside Lindsay Kellner.
Emma received her B.A. in Environmental Science & Policy with a specialty in environmental communications from Duke University. In addition to penning over 1,000 mbg articles on topics from the water crisis in California to the rise of urban beekeeping, her work has appeared on Grist, Bloomberg News, Bustle, and Forbes. She's spoken about the intersection of self-care and sustainability on podcasts and live events alongside environmental thought leaders like Marci Zaroff, Gay Browne, and Summer Rayne Oakes.