I first developed problems sleeping shortly after graduating from college.
I started traveling constantly as a freelance travel journalist. I boomeranged around the world, from Europe to Asia and back to North America, flying 300,000 miles and spending 350 nights a year in hotels.
Friends would marvel at my travel schedule and ask me what my secret was for overcoming jet lag. But I didn’t have a secret. Jet lag was my status quo, and coffee was my best friend.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, my hectic nomadic lifestyle came to a crashing halt. It was a challenging time professionally, but I thought I’d at least get my sleep schedule back on track now that I was stuck in one time zone.
I had recently read “Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams” by Matthew Walker, PhD. It helped me understand that sleep was the most powerful tool I had to care for my health and heal my body, if only I could harness it.
I thought it would be easy to get quality sleep now that I wasn’t waking up in a different bed every few days.
Unfortunately, years of poor sleep hygiene had caught up to me. Simply staying put and trying to go to bed at the same time each night weren’t enough to course correct.
Some nights, I’d lay in bed awake for hours, frustrated that I couldn’t sleep. Other nights, I’d fall asleep easily but wake up just a few hours later for no apparent reason. I’d be wide awake at 3 a.m., trying to will my body back to sleep until dawn.
Over the past year, I’ve made it a mission to get my sleep back on track, and I committed to getting 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night.
I’ve tried dozens of various sleep supplements, pillow sprays, incense, lotions, eye masks, sleep patches and different activities in my nightly routine to get me there, from yoga and meditation to journaling.
Every once in a while I still have trouble sleeping, but it’s more like once a month rather than two or three nights a week. Here are some of the most valuable tools and resources that I regularly incorporate into my evening routine.
There are certain foods and supplements that can help you fall asleep and stay asleep.
This means snacking on almonds 1 to 2 hours before bed may help you have a deeper, longer sleep.
You can also take a magnesium supplement by mixing it in a tea or tisane (see below!).
Another food that may boost your sleep is kiwi.
A 4-week 2011 study with 24 adults who consumed two kiwifruits 1 hour before going to bed each night revealed that participants fell asleep 42 percent more quickly than when they didn’t eat anything before bedtime.
The participants’ ability to sleep through the night without waking improved by 5 percent, and total sleep time increased by 13 percent.
While more research is needed to replicate these findings, eating a kiwi or two before you hit the hay may be another way to enhance the quality and quantity of your time in the land of nod.
Some options to try include:
I’ve tried a number of lovely herbal tisane blends, but the PARU Blue Chamomile blend is my favorite. It has a delicate floral flavor and beautiful blue color.
I also enjoy buckwheat tea for its earthy, nutty flavor that I find pairs wonderfully with a dessert.
I’ll admit that sitting still and meditating is hard for me, but a moving meditation with yoga can help me achieve similar benefits.
I turn to YouTube yoga videos to help me unwind after a long and busy day, and Yoga with Adriene is my favorite.
There are so many cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) products out there now that it can be overwhelming to navigate. I’ve tried more than a dozen different edibles with various blends to help me sleep.
Note that many CBD products contain trace amounts of THC, which is not legal in some states and may show up on a drug test.
Putting my phone away for the night is the hardest habit to break. I’ll admit that, some nights, I think of one last task or message to send and break my routine.
However, most nights, I end my evening not with a phone in front of me, but a journal and pen. I reflect on the day, a few things I’m grateful for, and what I’m looking forward to the next day.
You can journal on any pad of paper, but having a beautiful, dedicated gratitude journal, like this one from Insight Editions, helps me stick to it. The brand also makes a dedicated sleep journal designed to inspire restful sleep.
When I’m beginning my evening routine, I’ll light a candle while I do yoga, drink my tea, and journal.
It helps me set the tone for the evening, send a signal to my brain and nervous system that it’s time to wind down, and adds another sensory dimension to my experience.
Lavender is probably the most well-known aromatherapy scent for calm and relaxation, but you can also try scents, like:
- ylang ylang
Ultimately, there hasn’t been a single magic bullet that cures my sleep woes.
Still, taking intentional time each evening to set myself up for a great night’s sleep is key to priming my body and mind to rest. Anything that makes my evening more enjoyable and relaxing is a positive.
I’ve found that the winning combination is ingesting a sleep gummy or enjoying a calming herbal tea, along with consciously putting my screen away in favor of a relaxing activity before bed.
If you feel inspired, give a new sleep routine a try, and see what works for you.
Amber Gibson is a freelance journalist specializing in luxury travel, food, wine, and wellness. Her work appears in Condé Nast Traveler, Robb Report, Departures, Bon Appétit, and Travel + Leisure.