A few years ago, I was a full-time, subway-commuting, $15 midtown-salad-eating devotee of the Hustle Culture(™). Grind hard, baby, and get that paper.

In the office by 8am, client drinks at 8pm. Home around midnight, maybe I’d remember to swipe off my mascara before collapsing into bed.

TGIF signaled a reprieve; I’d spend the weekends catching up on sleep.

But come Monday, I was still exhausted. Mentally foggy, dragging, totally unmotivated, and with the memory of a goldfish.

I assumed this was the price one pays to ascend in Business World, USA. Just grab another latte, and keep it pushing.

In March 2020, everything changed. It took a once-in-a-century global pandemic and lockdown to realize this way of living was simply unsustainable: I was on the fast-track to burn-out.

Because of an army of essential workers delivering goods like groceries, I had the privilege of working from home and quarantining safely. The extra hours of downtime were new and strange. Initially, I spent a lot of that time binging Netflix and TikTok, pretending to do at-home workouts, and scheduling endless Zoom happy hours.

But even without the commute, the long office hours, the endless client entertaining, I was still exhausted. And I was tired of being tired. Something needed to fundamentally change.

For years, I’d been letting my career dictate the terms of my life: how I spent my days and with whom, what and where I ate, when I was able to sleep. After all, the second most important tenet of Hustle Culture(™) after “secure that bag” is “sleep when you’re dead.” I didn’t want to wait that long.

I decided to take action. First step: tackle the tired.

Googling “dear God, let me sleep tips on how-to” yielded interesting results. From there, I began to learn, or rather un-learn, years of shoddy sleep habits and how to improve my “sleep hygiene”. It didn’t happen overnight, and it’s not a slam dunk every night, but my quality of sleep overall has dramatically improved.

Starting Your Sleep Journey

Since we don’t gatekeep in 2022, here’s an inside look into my personal Sleep Journey(™), an evolving nightly routine to winding down and securing that bag of Zzz’s.

Shut it Down

About an hour before I plan to slip into bed, the TV, phone, and tablet get turned off, silenced, and set to Do Not Disturb. It feels old-timey, but late-night texts get handled in the am, and in my experience, the best response to “U up” is no response at all.

Why does this matter? Science.

Set the Scene

This part feels a little extra, and that’s the point. Mentally, I get to start unraveling the day’s events while going through these routine steps:

  1. I dim all the lights except for one: a 3-way bedside lamp, just bright enough to navigate my bedroom. Light has a powerful influence on our body’s circadian rhythm. By banishing overhead lights an hour before bed, you’re signaling to your body it’s time to start winding down.

  2. I stream my favorite French jazz radio station. The old standards remind me of rainy, lazy Sundays curled up with a book. Sometimes I’ll switch it up with a fiction audiobook or a meditation app. The point is to get my train of thought from full-steam to coasting.

  3. My aroma diffuser gets loaded with lavender, bergamot, cedarwood, or a combination of all three. Not only does my bedroom smell expensive, proper use of essential oils can help us sleep.

Do the Deed

After completing my nightly ablutions, which is a fancy way of saying I load my face with magic creams and oils, and practice responsible oral care, I’m ready to get into bed.

I keep a carafe of cool, filtered water and a tube of quick-absorbing hand cream on my bedside: mama likes to stay soft and hydrated and I’m lazy.

If I’m still teetering on the edge of sleep, I like to read a bit. Lately, I’ve been revisiting the books I hate-read in middle and high school with the Penguin Clothbound Classics. Turns out, problematic tropes aside, they’re pretty good.

Now, I know it’s 2022. So if you must, must, must read on a screened device because, I don’t know, it’s super convenient, give your eyes a break and set your gadget to night time mode. It’ll help reduce blue-light emission and eye fatigue.

Finally, I grab my silk eye mask like the Holly Golightly diva that I am and let sleep claim me.