Jessica Banks used to be the queen of her sleep domain. Now, she has a little furry princess calling most of the shots. Read on to find out how our Health Editor sleeps—or, as she said after writing this, “how my dog has apparently taken over my entire life.”
At my most excessive, I used to set four alarms to help me get out of bed. I would essentially roll out of bed and into my desk chair, ready to start my day. The ~gradual~ four alarm wake up gave me all the time I needed to get my brain ready for the day from the comfort of my blanket cocoon, so even if I wasn’t necessarily bright-eyed and fresh-faced, I was still ready to get to work when I hit that desk chair.
That all changed last March, when my husband and I adopted a puppy.
Her name is Blue, she’s the light of my life, and she instantly put an end to my four-alarm routine by regularly flying up onto the bed, jumping on top of me, yanking at the covers and yowling the second the first one went off. Thankfully, these days she’s a lot more respectful. She jumps on the bed after my husband leaves for work and waits quietly for my one and only alarm to go off at 7 a.m. Then she cuddles for a few minutes before the gentle pawing and woeful yowling begins.
She’s a little camera shy, but I did my best to capture her new “please please PLEASE get out of bed, Mom,” routine.
After quickly getting dressed and brushing my teeth (Blue running around and yowling all the while), we’re out for our morning walk. Though it doesn’t always feel like it right off the bat, this is probably one of the best changes to my routine since getting a dog—I start most days with exercise and sunshine, which wakes me up and puts me in a decent mood before I get anywhere near my computer. Of course, I haven’t had to do this in the frigid Midwestern winter yet, so talk to me in January—I might feel a little differently then :p
But right now, we’re both enjoying the crisp fall air and the changing leaves. Some days we get lucky and run into some of Blue’s puppy friends by the dog park—our favorite way to start the day! But it was empty and wet today, so we took our walk around the neighborhood and head back home.
Blue’s had her walk and breakfast, so I spend a few minutes getting myself together. Today it’s a chai latte (Starbucks has nothing on me!) and a homemade pumpkin cookie—I’m not normally a big breakfast gal during the week, but I’m also not one to pass up homemade cookies.
As far as I can tell, I’m one of those people that actually gets more tired from caffeine, so I stick to decaf tea and pick a fun mug. It’s October, so I can get away with the Halloween theme, right? By 8 a.m. I’m at my desk and checking my emails before diving into my tasks for the day.
During my lunch break, Blue and I take our second walk of the day. Usually I use this time to listen to an audiobook or podcast, but today, I’m trying Neil Gaiman’s masterclass on the art of storytelling. I write novels in my freetime, and I’m always looking for opportunities to learn from the best—Gaiman is definitely pretty high up on that list for me. Today I listened to “Character Case Study: ‘October Tale,’” which lets Gaiman show off his storytelling skills through a short story about a genie. He reads it verbatim, and fittingly, it reminds me of a bedtime story. I make a note to read the rest of Gaiman’s “A Calendar of Tales” as we head home.
Lunchtime is always a bit of a hodge podge for me. Some days I’ll grab a bunch of different snacks from the fridge, and other days I’ll have some leftovers from earlier in the week. Today I’m having some leftover pork and potatoes—it was so good I forgot to take a picture! After I eat, I head back to my desk to dive into editing some content. First up for the afternoon is a piece on sugar and sleep!
My husband and I alternate who cooks dinner. Since I work from home and he commutes in from the city I usually cook a little more often during the week. But tonight I got lucky—he’s making butter chicken, my absolute favorite recipe from the Test Kitchen cookbook. It’s warm and fragrant and everything I could possibly want on a chilly fall evening.
After dinner we (surprise!) take Blue for a visit to the dog park and play a game before we pick something to watch for the evening. Tonight, the name of the game is Bananagrams—it’s similar to Scrabble, but you win by being the fastest instead of earning the most points. Personally, I think my words are more creative, but that doesn’t matter—tonight, Nick is quicker, and he wins two out of three rounds.
10:30pm is my sweet spot for bedtime during the week, so I start my bedtime routine a half hour earlier. I’ve always been particular about my sleep schedule—I LOVE sleep, and know how important it is to overall health and wellness—I’ve even made a few upgrades to my routine since I started working for a company that’s all about sleep health.
After picking up Blue’s toys to avoid any middle-of-the-night squeaker wakeups, I take a nice hot shower and then jump into my skincare routine. My nighttime skincare routine is one of the few consistent, unchanging rituals I have in my day-to-day schedule, and I find the consistency and time spent solely focused on myself incredibly soothing, even if it only takes a few minutes.
Then, I prep the room for sleep. For me, this means total darkness, a cool temperature, and an oscillating fan providing the white noise I can’t sleep without.
Once the room is set, I hop into bed and do the daily Wordle with my husband—anyone else still playing? Tonight, I got the word in 3/6 turns vs. his 4/6 turns, which means sweet dreams for my super competitive self!
Or does it? I’m a finicky sleeper with a mind that often seems to wake up right as my head hits the pillow—I’m the person who tries to fall asleep only to be bombarded with thoughts like “Did I plug in my smart watch? I have to remember to send my brother that salmon recipe. I wonder if all those random kids from middle school remember the time I froze onstage during a dance contest.”
This is why a soothing evening routine is important to me—after 9 p.m. I usually try to stick with relaxing activities or TV shows in an effort to slow my brain down. But tonight, I watched The Sandman on Netflix. Do you know what show is decidedly NOT relaxing? The Sandman! Feels a little ironic to me, given the lore behind the character. Instead of thinking about embarrassing moments from middle school, I’m thinking about what might possibly happen next in The Dreaming. Neil Gaiman strikes again.
But I push on with my relaxing bedtime routine, which includes doing a quick gratitude list with my husband each night to try and push away any potentially sleep-stealing thoughts from the day. Here’s what I came up with tonight:
- The house we’re moving into in t-minus 15 days (woohoo!)
- Our king-size bed (10/10 would recommend for all couples everywhere)
- The pretty autumn leaves
I try to change it up every day—hence the queso—but Blue is always on the list (so is my husband, but that feels pretty sappy to admit!). After that, I pull out the big guns, reserved for nights I made poor decisions and did something in the evening that sends my mind racing: I turn on my meditation app, Balance. The brand ran a promotion for a year-long free trial this summer, so I jumped on it—and I’ve been sleeping pretty soundly ever since. I don’t use it every night, but when I do, I’m out like a light. Ofosu’s meditations are sublime, and I can rest easy knowing I still have a shot at a good night’s sleep despite watching a TV show that was anything but sleep-inducing right before bed.
But the best thing I’ve learned since working at Sleepopolis? Even if the meditation doesn’t work, I’m going to be A-OK. One bad night’s sleep isn’t going to wreck me, and there’s always tomorrow night to catch up if tonight isn’t full of sweet slumber.