Though Jennifer Aniston is an entertainment industry veteran, she’s only recently begun to feel like she’s paying enough attention to how her frenetic work schedule affects her sleep—and how her sleep affects, well, everything else in her life, too.
After dealing with sluggishness and feeling off-kilter in her eating and exercise habits, Aniston tells SELF that she ultimately decided it was time to raise the issue of sleep with her doctor. As part of a new campaign with Idorsia, called Seize the Night & Day, she’s encouraging others to do so as well. “We’re all getting older, and we don’t want to just be exhausted,” Aniston tells SELF. So she’s developed a bedtime routine that sets her up for success: Before falling asleep, Aniston takes time to stretch, meditate, and pray, an aspirational order of events.
Here, Aniston walks SELF through everything she does before bed—including the mistakes she made in her 20s, her “very personal” meditation practice, and the word she’d like to have with the entertainment industry about its grueling hours.
My ideal routine at night begins with all screens going off.
My phone goes into the kitchen or the bathroom. I walk the dogs. I lock all the doors. I’m really trying to be in bed at 11 o’clock. I just got back from working on a movie, where you don’t have that luxury of a routine because you might start Monday morning with a 4 a.m. wake-up call. And then by Friday—or as we call them, Fraturdays—you have a 6 p.m. call time and work until Saturday morning. It’s a little destructive to the old body clock, to say the least. But when I have the luxury of maintaining my routine, it’s everything.
When I have a Fraturday, I just try to not focus on it. I try to focus on the job at hand and not even think about, “Oh my god, it’s five in the morning.” I try to frame it as just a day of work—which is a whole other conversation that I’m going to try to tackle in the entertainment industry. Over the years, I’ve learned about the importance of sleep, and consistency is really crucial. Especially when we’re young, in our 20s, we pride ourselves on sleeping for two hours, four hours, and we’re great. We pop up and out of bed. And it’s not until the accumulation of that lack of sleep that it adds up and you start to really feel the effects of it.
If you lose sleep during the week, you think, “Oh, I’ll just sleep all weekend.” But you can’t make up for lost sleep. When we’re sleeping is when our bodies are doing all that repair work—on our cells, for our brain clarity, to our muscles; to repair skin, hair—it just affects everything. So I hit a wall and I finally decided to do something about it.
I used to definitely just not wash off my makeup.
There were nights when I would just not wash my face, or when I was just like, “Oh, I’m just so tired. Let’s fall asleep on the couch.” Falling asleep on the couch and watching television and waking up at three in the morning in my 20s was not so great. Now, I wash my face. If I am lucky, I get a hot bath, which really helps, and usually I will do my meditation from there: I do stretches, I do some yoga, and then I do a meditation and I just pray. Then I will sleep.
My meditation practice varies for me, and it’s very personal.
If I only have five minutes to do it, five minutes is fine. Usually, it’s just quieting down my thoughts. Or sometimes I’ll follow a meditation on an app. Sometimes, it’ll be about writing out a gratitude list. My meditations vary, but gratitude lists are really important, I believe. Every week I do them. We have a lot to be grateful for.
I’m such a night owl. That’s half of the problem.
And that’s why it’s been a real effort for me to try to turn that around and prioritize putting myself to bed at a consistent hour every night when I’m able to. And to wind down—put the screens down, walk the dogs, lock the doors, wash my face, do my meditations, and just keep the consistency of that—I think it really, really, really helps.
When my sleep was at its worst, my diet was bad and my skin was terrible.
I just wasn’t thinking clearly, and my doctor was so helpful. Sleep is usually the last question on the list when you’re at the doctor’s, because everything else seems more important. And now it’s the first question on my list. Everything starts with sleep. If I haven’t slept properly, my exercise is crap and my diet is out the window. I’m just diminishing returns.