The Secret To Getting Consistently Good Sleep, According to a Sleep Expert
Mar 15, 2021
Written by Emily Laurence - 03.15.2021
Is there anything worse than hearing your alarm go off after a night of bad sleep? Even if it’s set to play the happiest, most upbeat Justin Bieber song, if you haven’t slept great, you already know the day is going to be, well, a struggle.
Sleep is one of those things that’s taken for granted when you’re actually getting a sweet eight hours a night, but when you’re not, it literally throws your whole body off. “Sleep is really a time for us to shut down and recharge. It’s when your body and brain get a break,” says behavioral sleep therapist Annie Miller, MSW. “It’s important for both your emotional and physical health.”
Miller explains that if your mind and body don’t have time to rest, it can leave you totally depleted. While she says we can actually function okay on little sleep for short periods of time—um, hi to anyone who’s ever been a new mom—but long periods of poor sleep are scientifically linked to pretty much every health ailment out there, including cognitive decline.
“Not getting enough sleep can also affect your mood,” Miller says. “Sleep is the time when your cortisol levels drop and adrenaline shuts down. When that doesn’t happen, it can really affect your mental health.”
This is something I see all the time as a holistic health coach. A client will tell me they have a short fuse with their partner and have no idea why, or they’ll just break down crying in the middle of a Zoom call. It isn’t until I ask them how they’re sleeping that they start to connect the dots.
Of course it’s not that easy to just “go to sleep.” But Miller does have some tips that can get you there. You want to know the number one sleep secret she tells all her clients? It’s this: Establish a bedtime routine. It makes sense, right? Most people can’t just go from 100 to zero. Think of a bedtime routine as foreplay for drifting off to dreamland. What does the perfect bedtime routine look like you ask? Here, Miller shares her expert intel:
1. Don’t hangout in your bed until you’re literally ready to sleep.
Hot tip: The bed is for sleep and sex—that’s it. If you’ve gotten into a pandemic habit of working from home with your laptop propped up on a pillow while you lean against your headboard, it could start interfering with your sleep. “You don’t want your mind to start associating your bed with anything other than sleep,” Miller says. However you want to spend your evening, do it somewhere else, like the couch.
2. Do something to relax.
Going straight from work to lights out means your brain is going to be preoccupied on that last email you sent or whatever’s on your GoogleCal the next day. It’s important to have some separation between day and night. Whether it’s soaking in the tub, watching Netflix, scrolling Tiktok, reading, do something you enjoy to take your mind off the stressors of the day. Remember, just don’t do it in bed! It’s not sleeping time yet.
3. Say goodnight to your phone 30 minutes before you head to bed.
You knew this one was coming, right? All the stimulation from your phone is going to get your mind going when you want it to do the opposite. If you’re hard up on how to spend half an hour without staring at a screen, try journaling. It’s a way to get your thoughts out before you head to bed. If anxious thoughts are literally the reason why you can’t sleep, this can be especially helpful.
4. Face your clock away from the bed.
If your phone is your alarm clock, Miller says to face it down so you can’t tell what time it is from your bed. Similarly, if you have a clock on your nightstand, she says to turn it around so you can’t see what time it is. “If you’re lying in bed awake, your clock can become a countdown of how many hours it is until you have to wake up, and the stress of that can make it even harder to sleep,” she says. So when you say adios to your phone for the night before you climb into bed, make sure you can’t see the time. Just set your alarm and turn that sucker over.
5. Swap the wine for something that will actually work in your favor.
“Alcohol can help you fall asleep, but it interferes with REM sleep, so you don’t end up getting good sleep,” Miller says. Does that mean you’re destined for a boring ol’ cup of chamomile tea to be your only bedtime bev? Heck no. That’s where Apothekary’s brand spanking new blend Do Not Disturb comes in. You guys, this blend is a dream. (No pun intended.) Picking my favorite Apothekary blend is a little like picking my favorite child, but I’m obsessed with this one. (Don’t tell the others.)
Here’s what’s in it: holy basil (which helps reset the nervous system), mucuna (a precursor to dopamine, a mood-boosting hormone that’s essential for sleep), rose (which is mildly sedative and gives the blend a floral-y taste), cinnamon (linked to keeping blood sugar levels steady and adds sweetness without sugar), and coconut cream powder.
Do Not Disturb has become an all-star in my own sleep routine. Sometimes I incorporate it into a little bedtime snack, like on toast with nut butter and dark chocolate chips, which both have magnesium (linked to helping the body relax). You can also blend it right into a piping hot mug of oatmilk with a little extra dark chocolate. Other times I use it to make a fun alcohol-free spritzer, like in the recipe below. Are you down to experiment before taking things to the bedroom? Try it out:
Do Not Disturb Spritzer
I love to make myself something fancy in the evening to sip on and there’s just something fun about a fizzy spritzer. Here, REM sleep-disrupting alcohol is replaced with the Do Not Disturb blend, which primes the body for all-night rest and relaxation. I use a touch of agave to add a hint of all-natural sweetness, which helps play up the cinnamon in the blend. Fresh mint pairs perfectly with the rose and holy basil in the blend, and makes this drink super refreshing.
- 1 cup sparkling water
- 1 tsp Do Not Disturb
- ½ tsp agave
- 4 fresh mint leaves
Add the Do Not Disturb blend, sparkling water, and agave to a glass. Mix the ingredients together using a spoon or hand whisk. Add a few ice cubes and garnish with fresh mint leaves. Enjoy!