Copper pillows, foot massages, “psychic sleep” routines and no lights in your bedroom (not even an iPhone screen). These are some of the rules behind the latest trend in nocturnal wellness: Clean sleeping.
In the startup scene, sleeplessness is often accepted as a side effect of following your passion. But the champions of clean sleeping—including Gwyneth Paltrow’s wellness coach, Dr. Frank Lipman—say we should all be following a “clean sleep” program for the sake of our health, and our imagination.
“Sleep plays such a vital role in determining your appetite and energy levels, I believe it should be your priority.”
So, what exactly is clean sleeping, and how can we adopt it?
The most tweeted description comes from Goop’s founder herself. “The lifestyle I lead is based not just on clean eating, but also clean sleeping,” writes Gwyneth Paltrow in her book Goop Clean Beauty. “Sleep plays such a vital role in determining your appetite and energy levels, I believe it should be your priority.”
Under the guidance of Dr. Lipman, New York’s “wellness evangelist,” her clean sleep routine includes massaging her own feet for three minutes every night and practicing the meditation exercise Yoga Nidra (or “psychic sleep.”) She also uses a pillow case infused with copper-oxide fibers. But you don’t need to go “full Gwyneth” to access the creative benefits of clean sleeping.
Studies show that sleep could help to solve creative problems, by subconsciously “linking” memories and enabling dreamers to imagine, and better plan for, the future. At Georgetown University, researchers found that during naps, the right hemisphere of the brain (responsible for creative thinking) was especially active.
When a big brainstorming session is looming, don’t stay up late cramming. Instead, use these sleep techniques to wake up feeling inspired.
Think about how you might get a child ready for bed, and do the same for yourself. “It’s important to understand that your body can’t immediately switch from ‘drive’ to ‘park.’” says Dr Lipman. “You need time to slowly shift into sleep. Your bedtime preparation should include activities such as dimming the lights an hour or more before going to bed.”
He also advises taking a warm bath, listening to calming music, practicing relaxation exercises, and lowering the bedroom temperature (60-70 degrees is optimal). “Just as you would clean a cluttered room, put things away, mentally and physically, that will distract you from going to sleep,” he says.
In the modern bedroom, “light pollution” is a very real issue. “Look around your bedroom,” says Dr Lipman. “The alarm clock read-out that glows in bright red; the charging indicator on your phone or the monitor on your computer. Each of these takes a small toll on your sleep as each little bit of light can keep you from reaching deep restorative sleep.”
Multiple studies have shown that light from iPhones and laptops reduces melatonin—our naturally occurring sleep hormone. “Cover or move the clock, use dark shades or drapes on windows if they are exposed to light or wear an eye mask,” says Dr Lipman.
“If there is even the tiniest bit of light in the room, it can disrupt your circadian rhythm and your pineal gland’s production of melatonin and serotonin.”
Another term that has grown in popularity, “sleep hygiene” is the practice of cleansing your sleep habits. The National Sleep Foundation offers useful tips: Limit daytime naps to 30 minutes, avoid caffeine close to bedtime and steer clear of foods that can be disruptive to sleep, such as spicy dishes, citrus fruits or fizzy drinks.
Signs that you need to check your sleep hygiene include frequent “sleep disturbances,” daytime drowsiness and whether it takes you a long time to doze off in the first place.
What you wear (or don’t wear) to bed can have a positive impact on how deeply you sleep, according to experts. For optimum temperature regulation, The National Sleep Foundation recommends dressing in cotton, silk or bamboo or going sans clothing. When you’re overheated during sleep, your body doesn’t produce adequate melatonin and growth hormone, both of which are important for repair and rejuvenation.
According to a survey, only 8 percent of people sleep in the nude, but it could make you sleep better. Amongst other benefits, research at the University of Amsterdam found that lowering your skin temperature increases the depth of your sleep and reduces the number of times you wake up.
As gadgets like the Jawbone—a wearable device that monitors sleep patterns—become increasingly popular, tech startups are also offering ways to interpret dreams more effectively, and collaboratively. The website DreamsCloud, and its accompanying app, allows people to not only analyze their complex nighttime minds, but share dreams with people around the world and crowdsource their opinion.
There’s even an alarm clock app that will track and analyze your dreams for you. After raising over $50,000 on Kickstarter, Shadow: Community of Dreams is a mobile app that wakes the users and invites them to record “dream reports” by typing or talking, before adding it to a worldwide database.