I'm A Sleep MD & A Night Owl: Here's What My Bedtime Routine Looks Like
I'm incredibly passionate about sleep health because of my own personal sleep journey as a natural night owl. I had a huge wake-up call when I suffered from a transient ischemic attack (TIA) at age 24. At the time, I was a full-time graduate student in addition to working two jobs (one being an overnight shift). The doctors concluded that the cause of my TIA was likely due to chronic sleep deprivation (I was sleeping two to three hours/night for months). This health scare heavily influenced my decision to become a behavioral sleep medicine specialist.
I, unfortunately, had to learn about the importance of getting enough sleep the hard way, and I was determined to solve my own sleep issues without having to resort to using medication.
Reflecting on my experience now that I'm fellowship trained in sleep medicine, I see that what the doctors completely missed was an underlying sleep disorder. My lack of sleep wasn't just due to my demanding class and work schedule but also due to circadian misalignment, specifically delayed sleep phase syndrome (DSPS), a circadian rhythm sleep-wake disorder that causes the body's internal clock to be "delayed" several hours later than what is considered a "normal" sleep schedule by society's standards.
Promoting circadian alignment within my own body has been life-changing for me
I wasn't able to fully embrace my natural sleep schedule or "chronotype" until I decided to start my own business. Thankfully, I now have the flexibility to choose my own work schedule, and thus, sleep in my natural sleep window. Promoting circadian alignment within my own body has been life-changing for me in many ways (including my own mental and physical health). My journey has shown me that both sleep quality and quantity are important, but even more important for me is the timing of when I sleep.
I have my best night's sleep when I get morning sunlight (as well as lots of natural light throughout the day), move my body, and really prioritize my wind-down routine. As a natural night owl, nighttime is when I thrive (and often feel most productive), so limiting screen time and focusing on calming my mind and body at least 30 to 60 minutes before bed makes all the difference in my overall sleep quality. For me, a good night's sleep allows me to "fill my cup," so I can feel my best during the day.
- Average hours I sleep a night: 8-9 hours (I love my beauty sleep!)
- Ideal bedtime: 2 a.m.
- Ideal wake-up time: 10:30 a.m.
- Nightstand essentials: Right now, my nightstand includes this pair of blue-light-blocking glasses, this sleep mask, my favorite hands-free reading light, and a good book
- Favorite place I've ever slept: Yellowstone National Park (truly magical!)
- Sleep bad habit: Watching one too many Netflix episodes
- Caffeine consumption: I gave up daily caffeine in 2021 for hormone reasons (I was guilty of drinking espresso on an empty stomach every morning, which wrecked my morning cortisol). I may have an iced latte or matcha on occasion, as a treat
- How I track my sleep: I don't use a sleep tracker
- The last product or habit that changed my sleep for the better: Using this gentle mouth tape to promote nasal breathing while I sleep. I've noticed a huge improvement in my sleep quality and my oral health
- The first thing I do when I wake up: Make my bed and write in my 5-minute gratitude journal
Morning hours: I'm someone who firmly believes that good sleep begins in the morning! I try to set the stage for sleep as soon as my day begins. Every morning, I take a walk outside with my dog, Fancy. I try to get at least 15 to 20 minutes of natural light without sunglasses to help regulate my circadian rhythm. I notice that when I keep my morning light consistent, I usually feel sleepy around the same time each night.
8 p.m.: It's a Tuesday night after a full day of seeing clients. I finish up my notes from the day and reply to any pressing emails. I use the computer software f.lux to filter artificial blue light, which turns on after sunset. I power down my computer after my notes are complete.
8:30 p.m.: If I don't get a chance to exercise during the day (usually during my lunch break), I'll fit in a low-impact workout (like Pilates or Barre), walk on the treadmill, or focus on resistance training.
9:10 p.m.: I take a warm shower, brush my teeth, wash my face, and do my nightly skin care routine.
9:30 p.m.: I finish my daily gratitude journal entry (the 5-minute journal is broken up into day vs. night practice), which allows me to reflect on any highlights from the day. Sometimes my journal entry includes a "brain dump" for a few minutes. It really helps me get things out of my head and onto paper before I start to wind down.
9:45 p.m.: I tidy up my space and clean the dishes after dinner while listening to music or a podcast.
10 p.m.: I get cozy on the couch and turn on a good TV show. I put on my favorite pair of blue-light-blocking glasses.
11:45 p.m.: I practice some gentle stretches and restorative yoga poses. I focus on slowing down my breathing. Depending on how alert I feel, I may practice guided meditation.
12:15 a.m.: I take my dog out for her last walk.
12:30 a.m.: I transition to reading a book on the couch. Right now, I'm rereading The Four Agreements. I've read it a million times, but I always take away something new each time. It's a book that's not too mentally stimulating for me before bed.
1:40 a.m.: My eyes get heavy around this time. The wave of sleep is on its way. I try to only get into bed when I feel sleepy.
1:50 a.m.: I turn on my white noise machine and get under the covers.
2 a.m.: This night owl is sound asleep.
Dr. Sarah Silverman is a Stanford-trained behavioral sleep medicine specialist, insomnia expert, and wellness consultant who’s passionate about sleep health and holistic wellness. She’s the founder and CEO of Sleep & Shine, a boutique sleep telehealth practice offering personalized and holistic sleep services to Florida and New York residents. Notably, she’s an expert in Cognitive Behavior Therapy for insomnia (CBT-I), the first-line, drug-free treatment for adults with chronic insomnia.
Dr. Sarah is also the founder and CEO of ZzzHaus (“Sleep House”), a results-driven sleep health consulting agency, which provides concierge holistic wellness coaching and consulting services. As a company focused on women’s sleep and circadian health optimization, ZzzHaus uses cutting-edge circadian science and evidence-based protocols to maximize performance.
Dr. Sarah believes that every human deserves quality sleep and is on a mission to make science-backed sleep support more accessible to all. In her signature online holistic sleep improvement course called The Holistic Sleep Academy™️, she walks her students through a step-by-step roadmap to achieving quality sleep without medication. Follow along @drsarahsleep on socials.