When I was in my early 20s, I used to easily pull all-nighters. Not because I was up late cramming for exams or anything, but because I was dancing in an abandoned warehouse until sunrise. (Yes, I was a raver.) Sometimes, I’d even have to work my retail job the next day. Now that I’m in my 40s (still a shock), I can’t imagine how I was able to go entire nights without a good night’s rest. Sleep is now something that I’m really trying to prioritize in my life. Insufficient sleep can contribute to a wide range of pretty serious mental and physical health problems, such as depression and anxiety; heart disease, high blood pressure, and strokes; and cognitive issues such as lower alertness and focus. And I haven’t even gotten to the beauty-related aspects yet.
According to Francisco Tausk, MD, a psychodermatologist and advisor to Loum, scientific studies have shown that a lack of adequate sleep results in an increase in inflammation, acceleration of the signs of aging such as wrinkles, decreased recovery from the effects of UV damage, impairment of the integrity of the skin, and even “impaired facial appearance to others,” which I can only assume are in reference to the designer bags under my eyes that no filter is a match for! Clearly, if anything, my vanity is at risk without proper shut-eye.
“We have to understand that the skin is an immune organ that maintains the homeostasis (balance) of our bodies,” explains Tausk. “In addition to the specific skin cells, it contains numerous other cells that regulate inflammation, immunity, cancers, and infections. During sleep, not only do our brains regenerate and restore balance, but so does every organ, including, of course, the skin. In addition, sleep allows us to counteract the effects of inflammation and infections. So we find that sleep helps repair the damage that occurs to the skin by improving blood circulation, counteracting external stressors, and maintaining youthfulness.”
I like having a clear, set goal, so I figured I should aim for a certain amount of sleep. All of our lives, we’ve heard that eight hours is the magic number. So is that what I, a young 41-year-old woman, should aim for? Apparently, no. “It doesn’t really work that way. Sleep is much more of a personal situation,” says Michael Breus, PhD, the clinical psychologist and board-certified sleep specialist known as “The Sleep Doctor.” He says that he goes to bed at midnight and wakes up at 6:15 every day without an alarm, but his wife goes to bed at 11 and wakes up at seven. “It’s very difficult to come up with a number that can generalize across everyone, but what we could do is tell people that when you wake up and you feel refreshed, that is more than likely the amount of sleep that’s best for you,” he explains. (My theory is nine hours is my personal magic number, but I have to experiment with it more.)
Overall, you want to wake up at the exact same time every single day. Apparently, that’s a more important factor for keeping your circadian rhythm in line than going to bed at the same time every day. Breus recommends using a sleep tracker, like the Oura Ring—which he says is the most accurate one on the market—to figure out the length of your sleep cycle. “If you really want to understand what beauty sleep is, it’s actually stages three and four of sleep, which is where we get the largest bolus of growth hormone, and that’s really what actually physically restores us,” he adds. Knowing that, I do not understand how Dolly Parton can be her amazing self while operating on only three to five hours of sleep, but I guess that really proves Breus is right when he says sleep is personal!
I believe that achieving optimal sleep is going to require a holistic overhaul of my entire life—eating foods that make me feel good (if you’ve ever gone to sleep with intense stomach aches, you know that’s the truth), meditating, getting enough exercise, and probably a whole lot of other things! But there are also things I can do with my home, like preparing my bedroom so it’s actually a haven for sleep and not turning my bed into a makeshift workplace where I sit with my laptop. While I plan on painting the walls so they aren’t blinding white and putting up better blackout curtains, the first thing I wanted to do was get a new bed. I asked Thomas Tozer, DC, a chiropractor at Imperium Chiropractic in Wisconsin, what someone should look for when choosing a mattress to help with their sleep hygiene. “The biggest thing that buyers should look for in a mattress is quality,” he says. “There are a large variety of choices out there, and trying to get by cheaply typically ends up being a bad choice. He also says to consider the many factors that come into play when choosing a mattress, like body type, health issues (arthritis, sleep apnea, circulatory issues, etc.), your partner’s needs, and price range. Tozer also recommends that people research the different types and firmness of mattresses. He says to consider getting a mattress that is on the firmer side because you can always make a mattress softer by adding a mattress topper (something I would end up learning later).
I’m thoroughly convinced better sleep habits will greatly improve my life in all aspects, but it hasn’t been easy getting to where I want to be. I tend to be able to write best late at night (like I am right now), there’s the phone/social media habit that we all have, and there’s the whole issue of “coronasomnia.” My stress and anxiety have been on one these past three years. Plus, I had to deal with the heartbreak of my family dog passing away last year, so I’d often find myself tossing and turning all night or laying awake. I’ve been slowly making changes and trying things out here and there, but I am dedicated to figuring this out. I want to be a sleep queen!
Ahead, you’ll find all the things I’m swearing by to get my beauty (and mental and physical health and everything else) sleep.
If you’re looking for a supplement that doesn’t contain melatonin, Hum’s product works on your skin with ceramides, antioxidant ferulic acid, and CoQ10 while also helping you sleep with its blend of valerian root, passionflower, and hops.
On days when I want to really focus on sleep, I’ll take Moon Juice’s Dream Dust, which has calming and stress-reducing ashwagandha, chamomile, jujube, and polygala. I just mix a bit with water and drink it before hitting the hay. You can also add it to tea or milk.
In addition to sleep-focused products, I’ve been trying things that simply relax and calm me, which, of course, can lead to better sleep. I’ve been loving Moon Juice products, like this Magnesi-Om. It contains three forms of magnesium and L-theanine to promote calmness.
I never knew how much a humidifier was needed, especially in the winter—yes, even in L.A. Waking up in the middle of the night without a parched throat definitely helps me sleep and not immediately freak out and fumble around for water. This humidifier is especially great for bedrooms, as it reaches up to 500 feet.
One thing that my therapist and I have discussed when trying to manage my insomnia and anxiety was creating a sleep ritual. This entailed taking a shower or bath at night so my body could relax but also using special bath products that would signal to my brain that it was time to chill out. I’ve been a fan of Lush’s Sleepy lotion for years (the entire Sleepy collection is amazing), and I just added the shower gel to my nighttime bathing ritual.
Yuni has a wonderful collection of sleep- and stress-focused products, such as this body essence, which is made with ashwagandha, melatonin, passionflower, and chamomile. If you love slathering your bod with a nice, relaxing lotion or cream before sleep like I do, this is a must. (Also check out the other sleep products, including the Slumber Oral Spray, $19, and Tranquility Pillow Spray, $12.)
These tasty gummies are made with lychee, pear, and ashwagandha and support lower cortisol, leading to stress reduction—which I need. Plus, they come in a super-stylish reusable and recyclable tin packaging. (The brand also offers Sleep gummies formulated specifically for sleep that contain melatonin, vitamin B6.)
One thing that has helped me snooze is listening to sleep sounds, like rivers and rain, but one thing I still need to work on is not using my phone as an alarm clock. This multifunctional sunrise alarm clock has different kinds of light options and sleep sounds, so I really don’t have an excuse to use my phone in the bedroom.
I got rid of my old lumpy pillows (did you know that you’re supposed to replace your pillows every one to two years?) and switched them out with these cooling-infused memory foam ones from Marlow. An especially awesome thing about these pillows is that they’re easy to adjust. You can control the height of the pillow by just zipping or unzipping it. You don’t have to worry about taking out a bunch of stuffing or anything like that, either. I literally unzipped mine last night while my head was on it and fell asleep.
Getting a new mattress has been a game changer for my sleep, and Saatva’s premium memory-foam option is my favorite part of my new bedroom setup. It has foam layers that contour to your body, so it’s fully supported, gel-infused foam that keeps you cool so you won’t overheat. It also has a cover that’s made with hypoallergenic organic cotton. While a memory foam like this one can take a while to break in, a mattress topper has been a huge help in the meantime.
These bedsheets are no joke. They have temperature-regulating technology that absorbs any excess heat from your body, then releases it back to you if you get too cold. Excuse me, what is this wizardry? Sleeping cool is very important for sleep, so these are a dream.
These “buttery-smooth” bedsheets are beloved by Instagram for a reason. These 480-thread-count sheets live up to their name, feeling luxurious against your skin while you sleep, and they make your bed look great even if you’re too lazy to make it. But you know what really helps me sleep? The fact that the short and long ends of its sheets are labeled. Now, I don’t throw a tantrum when I’m trying to make the bed and accidentally put the short end on the long side and it snaps back.
This was the first CBN product I tried when I first started experiencing insomnia early in the pandemic, and it has since become a favorite in my house. It has a low dosage of THC ( five milligrams) and one milligram of CBN, plus relaxing terpenes like myrcene and linalool.
This is another one of my favorite go-to CBN products. The brand has two formulas depending on how much snooze you need. Fall Asleep is my fave, and it contains 15 milligrams of CBN and less than 1% of melatonin. I sleep soundly every time I take it.