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I've Been A Great Sleeper My Entire Life — With The Help Of This Consistent Routine

The Wind Down with Maya Feller
Graphic by mbg creative x Sandra Rei / Pexels
November 23, 2022
Our sleep series, The Wind Down, provides a minute-by-minute peek into the wind-down routines that get well-being experts ready for bed. Today, we're relaxing with registered dietitian Maya Feller, M.S., R.D., CDN, who can trace her solid sleep routine back to childhood.
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In my family, I'm known to be a great sleeper. I've always been that way. When I was a child, family members would joke that not only could I sleep anywhere, but people could come into my room and move my bed and I would not notice. It's true.

I'm not sure what has fostered my positive relationship with sleep, but I do know that as a child, I always felt safe when sleeping and recall being roused gently. I have vivid memories of taking a hot bath and then listening to books on tape before going to bed. Now that I think back, I had a routine put into place by my mothers. Family dinner was routinized, as was bath time and a consistent bedtime. I think that my early childhood set the stage for healthy sleep architecture that persisted into my adult life. I still rely on many of my childhood routines to get a good night's rest.

These days, I tend to have the best sleep when I've had enough movement, outdoor time, and space to decompress from the day. Baths are still a significant part of my relaxation routine. I find if I don't get outside or move, I become more reliant upon sleep aids like melatonin to stay asleep.

Sleep, particularly quality sleep, is important to me because it's what keeps me sharp and available to work. When working with patients one-on-one, I need to be engaged and emotionally available. This is also true in my media work as well as in public speaking. If I'm not well rested, I'm not able to do my job and then come home and give my full self to my family.

sleep stats written over line gradient
  • Average hours I sleep a night: Between 6 and 7 hours
  • Ideal bedtime: 10 p.m. but if I'm really tired I can go to bed as early as 8:30!
  • Ideal wake-up time: 7:30 a.m.; however, I usually have to wake up at 6 a.m.
  • Nightstand essentials: Weleda arnica rub for my back
  • Favorite place I've ever slept: Hands down a hammock on a porch in Jamaica when I was a teenager. The experience was replicated years later in Costa Rica with my daughter in the hammock with me!
  • Sleep bad habit: Going to bed after looking at my phone
  • Caffeine consumption: I drink two lattes from my Jura drip coffee machine with 2% or whole lactose-free organic milk each morning
  • How I track my sleep: Using the health app and focus settings on my iPhone. Generally, I'm quite orderly and enjoy following a routine. I have the health app set for bedtime at 10:30 p.m., and around 9:45 p.m., it automatically puts my phone into sleep mode and reminds me that it's time to wind down. I have my regular weekday morning wake-up set for 6:30 a.m. On the weekends, the wake-up is set for 9:40 a.m., so all calls are silenced until then. 
  • The last product or habit that changed my sleep for the better: In general, I have healthy sleep patterns. I recently started taking lemon balm for muscle tension, and that has been incredible for increasing the duration of my sleep
my sleep routine written over gradient
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This is my routine when I'm at home, and it differs slightly when I'm on the road. During travel, I have to be very intentional about staying well-hydrated and being mindful of my sodium intake. Too much salt and not enough water make it very hard for me to sleep. When I travel, I absolutely rely on a sleep aid like melatonin or sleep support+. I've also been known to travel with lavender room spray.

6 p.m.: Start dinner. Cooking is something that I love; it's meditative and grounding. By this time, I usually don't have my phone nearby as my focus is on my family.

7:15 p.m.: Sit for family dinner. For me, it's less about what I eat and more about when I eat. We generally have dinner at 7:30, so there is enough time between dinner and bedtime. I like to make sure I'm not eating and directly lying down.

8:30 p.m.: Wash my face and head back downstairs to check in with my husband and sit on the couch.

9:45 p.m.: My phone tells me it's time to wind down, and the truth is by this time, I'm ready for bed, so it does not take much for me to sleep. Once I'm upstairs, I don't check my email. I put my phone out of arm's reach. We also do not have a TV in our room.

10 p.m.: Brush my teeth and sometimes take a sleep support supplement.

10:15 p.m.: Once I'm in my bed, I'm usually asleep within 5 minutes. We keep our room cool, dark, and free from clutter. It's quiet except for the white noise machine that my husband turns on when he goes to bed.

If you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or taking medications, consult with your doctor before starting a supplement routine. It is always optimal to consult with a health care provider when considering what supplements are right for you.

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Maya Feller, M.S., R.D., CDN
Maya Feller, M.S., R.D., CDN

Maya Feller, MS, RD, CDN is a Registered Dietitian who specializes in nutrition for chronic disease prevention. She received her masters of science in nutrition at New York University and completed her clinical nutrition training at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. After graduating, Maya established a DOHMH funded food and nutrition program in an outpatient setting where she oversaw the nutrition program, counseled patients and was responsible for the daily soup kitchen and weekly food pantry where she partnered with neighborhood CSAs and food co-ops to bring local and organic food to her clients.

Maya shares her approachable, real food based solutions to millions of people through regular speaking engagements and as a nutrition expert on The Dr. Oz Show and Good Morning America. She's also an adjunct professor at NYU where she teaches nutrition and lectures at nutrition symposia. When she's not hard at work, you may spot Maya out for a run, shopping at the Park Slope Food Coop or enjoying a delicious meal with her family.

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