You know that feeling when someone tells you to stop stressing out? And then you start stressing out about not stressing out? Same. And to a certain extent, a similar phenomenon occurs regarding sleep. Just like eating a nutrient-rich diet and drinking enough water are basic human needs, so is getting ample sleep. And just like with diet and hydration, getting a healthy amount of sleep can be a challenge. Not only because our bedtimes run late and our alarm clocks chirp early, but also because daily stressors, our phones, our Netflix accounts, our diet choices—the list goes on—can hinder our ability to fall asleep, stay asleep, and get the kind of rejuvenating rest that will help us make it through the next day's inevitable marathon. So to offer up some holistic guidance, we reached out to Kimberly Snyder, nutritionist and New York Times best-selling author of the Beauty Detox book series and Radical Beauty.
Not only is Snyder a holistic health expert and the go-to guru for many celebrities, but she also just launched a brand-new SleepWell System, which is a complete guide for getting deeper, more restful sleep and ultimately creating a healthy, happy sleep homeostasis for those struggling to get their nightly quota. "We know, of course, eating and exercise are very important, but sleep is a really vital aspect of wellness," she emphasizes. "It's when our cells rejuvenate; it's when even our brain detoxifies itself. It helps to balance our hormones, and our system functions better when we sleep better, all around. This is why it's essential that we prioritize eliminating the factors that cause us to have restless nights of sleep."
So what are a few of the biggest offenders? According to Snyder, a distracted and stressed mind, which can generate anxiety and rampant worries, is the main perp. Or things we might perceive as mundane, which can fester internally like an unfinished work assignment, a stressful conversation we had before bed, or just a violent or stimulating television show. Another (slightly painful) culprit? Alcohol, which, Snyder says, can wake us up and eventually disrupt our sleep once we do turn in. So what are Snyder's holistic-minded secrets to detox your sleep routine? Keep scrolling for 10 of her best tips.
1. Sip Something Soothing
According to Snyder, one of the best things you can do to set yourself up for sleep success post–evening meal is sip something soothing. Not a fan of tea? Fear not—Snyder recommends a dreamy mix of hemp milk and spices as the ultimate nightcap. Try her signature Nourish Your Nervous System Elixir, which incorporates warmed non-dairy milk, raw honey or coconut nectar, cardamom, and saffron.
2. Dim the Lights
Okay, so you've probably heard this one before, but turning the lights down in the hours pre-bedtime is a key strategy for helping your biological clock ready itself for quality shut-eye. For optimal results, Snyder suggests dimming the lights (at least in your room) after 6 p.m. in the winter or after 7 p.m. in the summer. Try lighting some (nontoxic) candles to reduce your exposure to system-stimulating artificial lights.
3. Practice Abhyanga
Translation: Give yourself a relaxing oil massage pre-shower in the evening. "Abhyanga is the idea of working with the skin (the largest organ), to help soothe and relax our nervous system," explains Snyder. "The practice also brings us into the here and now and is great for settling the mind, reducing anxiety, and promoting sleep. I typically use sesame oil or coconut oil before showering in the evening as an ultimate self-care ritual." (Plus, the habit will surely make your skin glow.)
4. Wash Up
Yep, just one more reason to never go to bed with makeup on your face (or, gasp, to hit the sheets post-gym without showering). "Before going to bed each night, you want to make sure you always take the time to remove your makeup and wash away the day," says Snyder. "Whether it be a relaxing shower or just washing your face thoroughly, when you put your head on your pillow, you want to have as fresh and clean of an environment as possible. Your skin needs to be able to breathe, and creating that time while you are sleeping is ideal." We think Slip Pure Silk Sleep Mask, ($45) makes for the perfect accompaniment.
5. Play some Relaxing Music
Okay, maybe not literally, but strategically cueing up a relaxing Spotify playlist might be one of the best ways to prep yourself for a quality night's sleep. The key, according to Snyder, is finding tunes with a lower vibration. (These can help calm the mind and leave you soothed and self-connected before turning in for the night.)
6. Add Some Essential Oils
"Essential oils have a definite effect on your brain, and certain scents work to calm you down," Snyder iterates. "You can use a relaxing scent like lavender to help you drift off to sleep—I like to put a few drops on my pillow or I just sniff the open bottle while I'm reading."
Additionally, Snyder recommends Roman camomile (she loves the brand shown above) as a strategic sleep-inducing essential oil to add to a diffuser or to put on a cotton pad and tuck into a pillowcase. Or if you want to take it up a notch, try adding it to the oil you use pre-shower.
7. Encourage Your Inner Bookworm
While it may be tempting to entertain yourself with social media before bed (we're all guilty), swapping your phone in for a good read is one of the best ways to detox your bedtime routine. Even if you can only keep your eyes open to get through a few pages, Snyder explains that it's the objective process of slowing yourself down and preparing for a good night's rest (without the help of your heart-tapping following) that will truly make a difference in your quality of shut-eye.
8. Try Meditation
"I always finish my evening routine with meditation," Snyder tells us. "I've found it to be the ultimate way to clear out the day and to get re-centered. A lot of times, we don't fall asleep easily because our minds are still racing, which is not at all conducive to deep sleep. And even starting with a super-simple meditation can help. Hopefully, the more your body gets used to it, the easier it will be to just shut off and fall right to sleep.
9. Befriend Herbs and Adaptogens
"One thing I always suggest to promote healthier sleep is ashwagandha which is traditionally used in Ayurveda," says Snyder. "It's known to be powerfully rejuvenating without acting as an actual stimulant. If used before bed, it has the ability to relieve stress and to protect brain cells against the effects of our fast-paced lifestyle. It also naturally regulates cortisol levels to limit the high levels of stress that we know can have damaging effects, not only on our health and beauty but our happiness too."
Another more floral option is passionflower, which, according to Snyder, has many benefits in addition to promoting sleep-including, calming, and anti-anxiety perks. "There have actually been clinical trials to help back up the effectiveness of passionflower and how it can reduce anxiety as effectively as the prescribed drug known as benzodiazepine oxazepam," Snyder notes. "A double-blind study of four weeks took patients with generalised anxiety disorder and compared the effectiveness of passionflower to a common anti-anxiety drug and found it to be an effective herbal remedy to help combat insomnia. But since passionflower is not a drug, it won't leave you feeling groggy or tired the next day or with other adverse effects."
10. Eat Carbs
Nope, you are not being punked. Despite the fact that carbs have (unfairly) earned a less than stellar reputation over the years, incorporating a healthy dose of complex carbs before bed might be the key to a healthier night's sleep. For instance, Snyder tells us that in a recent sleep hygiene study, researchers uncovered that consuming some carbohydrates in the evening helped promote restorative sleep. "Tryptophan is an amino acid that can help the brain get into a relaxed state, similar to melatonin," cites Snyder. "Good sources of plant-based forms of tryptophan include carbohydrates like brown rice, corn, or quinoa."
Curious to learn more ways to upgrade your sleep quality? Here are seven of our favourite bedroom updates to make for a good night's sleep.