Sleep is essential for physical and mental well-being, and not getting enough can affect everything from our blood pressure, to our immune responses, to our cognitive performance and mood. And when sleep is elusive, knowing all of this can create a lot of pressure. Most of us know the feeling of lying wide awake in a darkened room, trying to avoid looking at the clock so that we can’t do the math on exactly how sleep-deprived we’ll be tomorrow.
In this way, stars really are just like us. Though it’s easy to assume that fame and fortune make you immune from mundane worries like insomnia, celebrities like actors and musicians often work long, irregular hours, lack consistency in their schedules, and travel frequently, all of which can wreak havoc on shut-eye. So when sleep refuses to come — or abandons you unexpectedly midway through the night — where do the A-listers turn?
Here are 10 celebrity sleep tips, along with an expert’s assessment on whether they actually work.
Jonathan Van Ness Uses Guided Meditations and Yoga to Get Back to Sleep
Van Ness doesn’t have trouble getting to sleep at night, but the charming hair expert does experience what are known as mid-sleep awakenings. “Sometimes I wake up with anxious thoughts at three in the morning,” he told Self. In those moments, “guided meditations help a lot. You can also get on the ground and do a little restorative yoga moment — child’s pose, supine twists, and legs up the wall, and hold each pose for three minutes or so and just breathe to calm my nervous system.”
These techniques are powerful because they address the emotions that often underlie sleep problems, says Dr. Audrey Wells, MD, a sleep medicine specialist and the founder of Super Sleep MD. “One of the things I like to say is that sleep is an emotional experience,” she explains. “There are some feelings that it’s hard to sleep well with. If you’re anxious, if you’re frustrated, if you’re feeling guilty or ruminating on things from the day. Guided meditations and yoga can both work your brain into a state that’s more conducive to sleep.”
Getting out of bed to do some yoga poses is an especially good idea, Dr. Wells adds, rather than spending too long tossing and turning. “If you wake up in the middle of the night and you can’t get back to sleep, it’s best to get out of bed once it starts to bother you. Go into a different room, do something else, and take the pressure off of yourself to fall back to sleep right away.”
Oprah Has a Nightly Bath Before Bed
Oprah’s bedtime routine involves a non-negotiable bath. “It’s a ritual. I’m a bathing professional – I have different bubble baths, salts, beads, and oils,” she told Harper’s Bazaar, calling out pure lavender oil as a favorite.
And there’s science to back up this self-care staple. “Taking a warm bath allows the blood vessels in your hands, arms, feet and legs to dilate, and this pulls your circulation more out to your extremities,” Dr. Wells says. “That has the effect of slightly reducing your core temperature, which is a signal for sleep. So a warm bath before bed is great in general for relaxation, but also for the reduction in core temperature.”
Gwyneth Paltrow Prioritizes an Early Dinner
Paltrow and husband Brad Falchuk pride themselves on their “ridiculously early dinner times” specifically for the sake of their sleep. In an interview with Vanity Fair, she noted that going to bed while you’re still digesting food “can rob some of the restorative and reparative energy that happens during sleep.”
This is true, says Dr. Wells, although there’s no benefit to fasting for longer than three hours before bed: “Stopping your food intake three hours before you want to go to sleep gives your stomach adequate time to process the food, and move it into your intestines. If your stomach is still processing food when you lie down flat, there’s the potential for acid reflux, where some of your stomach contents gets pushed up into your esophagus. Symptoms like heartburn, indigestion, a sour taste in the mouth, can be related to eating too late at night, so three hours is the recommendation.”
Chrissy Teigen Snacks on “Night Eggs”
On the flip side, going to bed too hungry can also make it hard to get to sleep. Chrissy Teigen’s go-to cure for the midnight munchies is a high-protein snack — specifically, “night eggs.” Asked by a Twitter follower to expand on this intriguing habit, Teigen explained: “I can’t sleep without being overly full. I take two hard boiled eggs to bed every night and eat them when I randomly wake up.”
In general, the human body is meant to fast overnight, Dr. Wells says, so waking up hungry may suggest either insufficient calories or a lack of satiating foods during the day. “But I don’t see any great harm with this, since two hardboiled eggs is a relatively small amount of food, and it’s high in protein and fat.” Those are the two macronutrients you want to emphasize in a nighttime snack, since anything too high in carbohydrates may cause a blood sugar spike that further disrupts sleep.
Keke Palmer Journals Before Going to Sleep
“I like to journal and I try to do it every single night,” Palmer told Self in an interview about her wind-down routine. “I try to always write down two things that supported me throughout the day. Whether it was someone who smiled at you, or whether it was good advice someone gave or even somebody just bringing you a coffee in the morning, writing down what supported me that day and how I’m thankful for it is something I always try to do.”
There’s plenty of evidence to support a gratitude practice for mental health, and the ritual of journaling can have major cognitive benefits. “It’s important to recognize that the brain you have early in the day, is not the same brain as when you go to sleep,” Dr. Wells notes. “Your brain is tired, and it has a tendency to kind of recycle thoughts that can interfere with going to sleep. So journaling is a way for you to hear yourself, in a sense, and evacuate those thoughts that would otherwise be bouncing around. You’re writing out your thoughts, they’re purged out of your mind, and you feel more settled.”
Jennifer Aniston Puts Crystals on Her Nightstand
Aniston’s bedtime go-tos, as she described to Real Simple, include plenty of tried-and-true hacks for better sleep, including magnesium baths, meditation, and no screens for an hour before bed. But she also incorporates an unorthodox trick into her routine — she keeps a specific set of crystals on her nightstand. “When there’s a full moon, I put them outside for a moon bath,” she added, explaining that the crystals are there for protection and good energy. “They’re everywhere; I’m not going to lie.”
While there is no science to suggest that crystals have any impact on sleep quality, there’s also no harm in incorporating a little superstition into your bedtime zen if it works for you. “There is something to be said for a placebo effect,” Dr. Wells says. “So believing that something works may give you some mileage.” This could be crystals, a dreamcatcher, or a comforting object like a stuffed animal — whatever helps to create a sleep environment you personally find relaxing.
Lindsay Vonn Travels With a Candle So That Her Bedroom Always Smells the Same
Like a lot of athletes, Vonn travels regularly for work, so she prioritizes making her bedroom feel like home no matter where she is. “I have this particular candle that I really like—the Voluspa Gardenia Colonia Classic Candle,” she told Self. “I usually travel with that and it reminds me of home. Wherever I am, I like my bedroom to smell the same way. It’s a comforting thing.”
Creating consistency in your environment is a great way to set yourself up for a good night’s sleep, Dr. Wells says. “A lot of people have strong associations with smell, as a way to call up a particular memory of a feeling. So if a smell makes you feel calm, peaceful, safe, it can also be a way to signal your brain that this is the time to relax and go to sleep.” There’s no universal smell that will work for everyone, she adds, but candles, essential oils, lotions or herbal tea are all ways to harness the power of smell in your bedtime routine.
Kim Cattrall Has Used Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to Cope With Insomnia
Cattrall has spoken candidly about her devastating experience with chronic insomnia. “I didn’t understand the debilitating consequence of having no sleep. It becomes a tsunami. I was in a void,” she told Radio Times. Her condition ultimately drove her to drop out of a play in London, because, she realized, “the work that I really needed to do was more important than the play – it was work on my sanity.” For Cattrall, that meant cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which is a form of psychotherapy that focuses on changing negative thought patterns. “It’s like putting on a pair of sneakers and going into your past to get a new perspective,” Cattrall said.
“Cognitive behavioral therapy is the gold standard treatment for insomnia,” Dr. Wells confirms, whether your issue is getting to sleep, staying asleep, or waking up too early. If accessing CBT is a challenge, apps and other online options can provide the tools you need to get started. Maladaptive thoughts are often at the core of insomnia – for example, you might have a thought like “If I don’t get to sleep in the next half hour, I’m going to be exhausted tomorrow and the day will be a disaster.” Or it might be a more universal thought, Dr. Wells adds: “like describing yourself as a poor sleeper, or saying ‘That won’t work for me because I’ve tried everything’. Those kinds of internal dialogues really keep you stuck, and what CBT does is challenge that, flush it out, and give you more adaptive ways to get to sleep and stay asleep.”
Eva Mendes Uses a White Noise Machine
“I just don’t sleep well,” Mendes admitted to Yahoo! Lifestyle, adding that she’d finally found a “life-saver” in white noise machines. Though she and husband Ryan Gosling initially started using this tool to help their children get to sleep, Mendes discovered that it was the solution to her own sleep issues too. “They’re the answer to so many of our problems. You know… if there’s barking dogs next door or if there’s construction in the area, it’s just life-saving. Now when I travel and I’m not with the kids, I take one with me anyways because I’m used to it, and it really helps.”
White noise machines are especially beneficial for light sleepers, Dr. Wells explains, because they create a consistent soundscape that masks unpredictable external noise, which can be a godsend for anyone who startles easily during sleep. But even if you don’t think of yourself as a light sleeper, it’s possible that environmental noise may still be affecting your rest. “There have been EEG tracing studies of folks in a sleep lab, where if there’s a sudden noise like a door shutting, you see a spike in their brain activity. It’s not an awakening, it’s called a micro-arousal, and it does very temporarily disrupt sleep. Noise machines are a great way to avoid that.”
Kristen Bell Keeps the Lights Low
“I always dim the lights the minute we go into the bedroom,” Bell told Self, in an interview delving into how she creates a soothing sleep environment for her family. “Which I also recognize is because I have a dimmer, so that’s a luxury—people don’t always have that—but I find those kinds of signals are important.”
Hours before you turn out the lights to go to sleep, your brain is already preparing itself to wind down, and bright lights can hinder that natural process. Keeping the lights dim at night, even if you’re not heading to bed yet, will enhance your brain’s natural melatonin production. “We produce melatonin in the context of dim light, or even red light, and that melatonin going up is a very powerful signal for sleeping,” says Dr. Well. Melatonin production typically begins a couple of hours before bedtime, so too much bright light during that window can disrupt the process.
On the other end of the spectrum, electronic devices (even if they have Night Shift enabled) emit a short wavelength blue light, which is a powerful wake signal. “We actually have receptors in the back of our retina that are sensitive to that blue light, and they can communicate directly with the brain’s body clock.” So avoiding electronics for a while before bed, in addition to keeping the lights dim, is your best bet for a good night’s rest.
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Pasternak, Hannah Dylan; “Kristen Bell on Honest Parenting, Her Face Mask Stash, and Dax’s Side of the Bed,” SELF, https://www.self.com/story/sleeping-with-kristen-bell. March 12, 2020.
Tong, Julie; “‘I just don’t sleep well’: Eva Mendes says this bedtime gadget is a ‘life-saver’,” Yahoo! Lifestyle, https://www.yahoo.com/lifestyle/just-dont-sleep-well-eva-mendes-says-bedtime-gadget-life-saver-222615380.html. March 18, 2019.
Hodges, Michael; “Kim Cattrall is a long-time fan of The Archers but never watches Sex and the City,” Radio Times, https://www.radiotimes.com/tv/drama/kim-cattrall-is-a-long-time-fan-of-the-archers-but-never-watches-sex-and-the-city/. June 15, 2016.
Dutch, Taylor; “How Lindsey Vonn Streamlined Her Sleep Routine to Finally Get Good Rest,” SELF, https://www.self.com/story/lindsey-vonn-sleeping-with. October 20, 2022.
Maffei, Healther Muir; “Jennifer Aniston Struggles With Sleep—Here’s How She’s Coping,” Real Simple, https://www.realsimple.com/jennifer-aniston-sleep-routine-7368319. March 21, 2023.
Pasternak, Hannah Dylan; “Keke Palmer on Candles, Journaling, and Watching Memes Before Bed,” SELF, https://www.self.com/story/sleeping-with-keke-palmer. January 29, 2020.
Teigen, Chrissy; Twitter, https://twitter.com/chrissyteigen/status/1218819650584137729. January 19, 2020
Regensdorf, Laura; “Gwyneth Paltrow Is Here to Fine-Tune Your Bedtime Routine,” Vanity Fair, https://www.vanityfair.com/style/2022/07/gwyneth-paltrow-sleep-milk-goop-interview. July 25, 2022.
Winfrey, Oprah; Silva-Jelly, Natasha, “A Day in the Life of Oprah,” Harper’s Bazaar, https://www.harpersbazaar.com/culture/features/a15895631/oprah-daily-routine. February 26, 2016.
Keller, Cathryne; “Jonathan Van Ness on Bedtime Needlepointing and Stealing His Husband’s Covers,” SELF, https://www.self.com/story/sleeping-with-jonathan-van-ness. March 16, 2022.
Wells, Dr. Audrey; Personal interview. April 2023.