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What Is Gwyneth Paltrow's 'Clean Sleeping' (and Should You Be Doing It)?

Is there anything to Gwyneth Paltrow's "clean sleeping" regimen? For once, health experts say, there is.
Image: An unmade bed
Goop's "clean sleep" regimen is what sleep experts call "good sleep hygiene."John Brecher

When it comes to health and wellness, advice from Goop (Gwyneth Paltrow’s “modern lifestyle” brand) has danced somewhat casually across the line of being scientifically sound. The benefits of growing your own, fresh herbs? Yes. Sticking a jade egg up your vagina for better sex? Just, no — according to multiple gynecologists. So what of the wellness guru’s advice for sleep?

“There’s no substitute for good sleep in terms of how well rested you’ll feel and look. That’s because sleep is a magical time for your body — it’s when some of the body’s most important repair and revival work happens,” according to Paltrow’s book Goop Clean Beauty.

Well, it’s not exactly magic — it’s the science of how our bodies work. But Paltrow is right in the fact that no amount of coffee or Red Bull will revive our minds or our muscles like a good night of rest, or do the critical work that the body does during sleep to stay healthy in the short and long run. (Sleep helps learning, memory formation, creativity and regulation of emotions. Sleep also gives the body time to do critical repair work to ward off chronic problems like diabetes, obesity, heart disease, some cancers, and neurological disorders, like Alzheimer’s disease.)

Paltrow’s sleep-better advice also emphasizes the importance of winding down before you jump between the sheets and taking other steps to make sure you’re getting enough and good quality sleep.

One of the biggest problems with sleep is just not getting enough of it.

“Try to go to sleep and wake up around the same time as often as possible” and “unplug at the end of the day” are a few of the sleep tips the Goop editors swear by, according to the book — along with avoiding caffeine later in the day and try to make your room completely dark when you do go to sleep.

“A lot of what she’s talking about is what we refer to in the field as ‘sleep hygiene,’” Sabra Abbott, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor of Neurology and Sleep Medicine at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, tells NBC News BETTER. Goop deems it “clean sleep.”

A really good thing that the book highlights is how important sleep is to our overall health and wellness, and why making it a priority shouldn’t be a luxury — it’s another way you’re taking care of your body. Other good takeaways include the sleep tips to get good quality sleep: following a consistent sleep-wake schedule, getting seven to nine hours of shut-eye every night, avoiding screens and other bright light before bed and during the day, trying to spend time outside in the sun and exercise to keep your body clock on schedule.

All of that advice agrees with what countless other sleep medicine experts have said and recommend, Abbott said.

The Goop sleep tips that have raised eyebrows come toward the end of the chapter on shut-eye, “Sleep Rituals.” We find out Paltrow’s a fan of a de-stressing bath, an ancient mediation practice called “yoga nidra,” three-minute foot massages and really nice bedding. This is where the editors of Goop gush over copper-infused pillowcases. "Copper-infused pillowcases are hailed for their ability to reduce wrinkles," the book notes.

But it’s worth pointing out those are just some strategies to calm down at the end of a stressful day and prepare her body for sleep.

What’s important to know is that your sleep routine isn’t “dirty” if it doesn’t look exactly like that, Abbott says.

Things like yoga, meditation and mindfulness more closely resembles sleep advice for people who have trouble sleeping to begin with, explains Rafael Pelayo, MD, a clinical professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Center for Sleep Sciences and Medicine at Stanford University. These are ways to teach people to let go of the anxieties they have around sleeping and being able to fall asleep — and actually sleep, says Pelayo, who contributed to the section from Goop Clean Beauty about why sleep is important and why you can’t really make up for lost sleep.

“But a lot of people sleep fine without any of these things,” he says.

What’s the best way to figure out what routine works best for you? Here are a few suggestions from Abbott and Pelayo on how to find the winning formula that works for you.

1. Get enough sleep

Abbott cautions against aiming for Paltrow’s goal of ten hours of sleep every night. Most of us don’t need that much, she explains — and spending too much time in bed if you’re not sleeping could actually trigger problems with sleep or insomnia.

But that doesn’t mean you can get by on five or six hours of sleep each night, she says. Adults should aim to get the seven to nine hours of nightly sleep that the National Sleep Foundation recommends, she says. That range is based on the best available research in terms of what amount of sleep is associated with the most health benefits in terms of our shut-eye affects our long-term and day-to-day health.

“So often if you have too many things to do during the day, the thing that gets pushed to the side is sleep,” she says. “One of the biggest problems with sleep is just not getting enough of it.”

2. Take time to decompress before you hit the sheets

Falling asleep isn’t like turning off a light switch. Most of us need time to wind down and decompress from the stress of the day, Abbott says. Whether it’s yoga, meditation, a warm shower, reading a book or listening to relaxing music, taking some time to do something that relaxes you is a good idea — and will help you fall asleep quicker when you do hit the pillow, Abbott says.

If you sleep fine without a warm bath or a mini self-massage, skip it. What is important for everyone is to limit your exposure to light at night — particularly blue light, the type that gets emitted from TVs, computer screens, and our phones, Abbott says. Blue light has been found to directly interfere with the body’s release of melatonin, the hormone that tells your body it’s time to sleep. Try to limit your exposure to blue light in the two hours before bed, Abbott says.

3. Don’t obsess over it

In the ideal world we would all get the exact amount of sleep we need every night and we would be in a totally zen mood before even thinking of crawling into bed. In the real world, everyone gets a bad night of sleep now and then. Everything from a crying baby to a pressing deadline to travel gets in the way.

It’s unrealistic to think you’re going to sleep perfectly every night — and it can end up doing more harm to your sleep to try, Abbott adds. Obsessing over hitting a specific number of hours of sleep each night can lead people to spend too much time in bed, willing themselves to fall asleep. Then they lay awake in bed not being able to sleep and get in a vicious cycle of not being able to fall asleep, Abbott says. Likewise, adding too many steps to an evening routine can bring on an anxiety, too.

“Use some common sense,” Abbott says. “Don’t jump from your busy day right into bed, but also make sure you’re not adding so many elements to your nighttime routine that you’re stressing yourself out.”

4. Focus on how you feel throughout the day

Your norm should not be dozing off during afternoon meetings, Abbott says. Pay attention to you and the signals your body is sending you, which are the most important gauges of the quality of your sleep, Abbott says. “Focus on how you’re feeling and functioning throughout the day.”

If you’re getting seven or more hours of sleep every night and you still struggle to keep your eyes open as soon as it hits 3pm or you wake up feeling wiped, that may be a sign that some other part of your sleep has gone awry or something else is wrong.

It’s unrealistic to think you’re going to sleep perfectly every night — and it can end up doing more harm to your sleep to try.

5. If you’re not sleeping well, get help

And no matter how many hours of sleep you’re clocking, no matter what your bedtime routine looks like and no matter how you feel about copper pillowcases, if you’re not waking up feeling refreshed and rested, you can (and should) get help, Pelayo says. Getting good sleep is connected to a lot of chronic health problems over the long-term, and it’s very intimately affects your mood, attention, focus, and functioning every day.

“Sleep should be a restorative process,” Pelayo says. And if it’s not, there are sleep experts out there who can help you.”

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