Getting enough high-quality sleep is one of the most important factors in terms of brain aging. As a neuroscientist, I am acutely aware of the benefits of a good night’s sleep—both short term and long term. The reality is that one bad night’s sleep can seriously affect your memory, concentration, decision-making power, and energy levels the next day.
Long term, if the overnight cleansing of the brain is disrupted, toxins from the wear and tear of daily life begin to accumulate. If they do not get flushed out, these toxins can build up to the pathology behind dementia-type diseases.
Since sleep is so essential to brain health, I have done a lot of research on sleep hygiene—which has been of tremendous help to me personally! I require a lot of sleep and fortunately have always been a good sleeper. I sleep best when I’m at home in my own bed and when I am not jet-lagged. In terms of barriers to sleep, outside noise, digital light, uncomfortable temperatures, and stress are the biggest ones for me.
Here is what a typical sleep routine looks like for me these days. Yes, it starts in the morning!
8 a.m.: Wake up and give gratitude, then do some deep breathing in bed. Get up and make my bed.
8:15 a.m.: Go downstairs and take my probiotic Symprove and my brain care supplement. After 10 minutes, I drink a tall glass of water. Then I make my cup of tea and drink it mindfully, then check my emails.
8:45 a.m.: Return to my bedroom, open the blinds, brush my teeth, dry body brush to wake up my lymphatic circulation, have a magnesium bath or shower, do my skin care routine, and get dressed.
9 a.m.: Do admin (work or household).
Noon: Make and eat lunch. (I only eat between noon and 8 p.m., ensuring that I have finished eating at least two hours before bed so that my digestion is complete before the falling-asleep process is underway.)
1 p.m.: Work
6 p.m.: Spend an hour winding down from work. I’ll either go for a walk, have a call/chat with a friend/family member, listen to a podcast, or start preparing dinner.
7.30 p.m.: Eat mindfully, with no TV or phone.
8 p.m.: Dim the lights and watch TV, read, or listen to classical music. At some point before bedtime, I go up to my bedroom and close the blinds, switch on my air purifier, turn down my duvet, lay my eye mask on my pillow, place my cashmere socks on the bed, and spray the inside of my bed, my pillow, and my eye mask with sleep mist.
9:45 p.m.: Take my last peek at the phone for the day. Research shows that if you look at a bright device (not just blue light devices) between 11 p.m. and 4 a.m. consistently over time, it lowers your brain’s dopamine levels1, leading to an increasing sense of disappointment in life.
10 p.m.: Get in bed. I try to maintain an earlier bedtime because I know we need to be in bed for seven to nine hours (the brain cleansing process via the glymphatic system takes seven to eight hours.).
Once in bed, I meditate and look at my annual Action board, a collage of all my goals and desires. I look at the board, visualize it as if it is already true, feel what that feels like in all my senses, and give gratitude for it becoming real. The reason for looking at the board last thing at night is the psychological phenomenon called the Tetris effect. This shows that the last thing you look at, visualize, and think about before you fall asleep has a big impact on your subconscious and your dreams. That leads to the priming of the brain as it chooses what to filter out/tag as important to you thriving the next day.
I then do a progressive relaxation from my toes upward (yoga nidra or psychic sleep), and I also use a mantra.
11.p.m.: Put in my ear plugs, put on my eye mask, and fall asleep on my side.