Welcome back to Sleepless Nights, Stylist’s weekly series designed to help you put your Sunday night anxiety and worries to bed. This week, we’re speaking to Eve Lewis Prieto, Headspace’s director of meditation and narrator of the new Netflix show Headspace Guide To Sleep, about how to switch off at the end of the day – and how meditation and mindfulness can help you do just that.
It’s not often that the team behind a TV show see their audience falling asleep before the end of an episode as a sign of success. But for the group behind Netflix’s latest series with Headspace, Headspace Guide To Sleep, that’s kind of the ultimate goal.
“There’s a chance people might fall asleep,” Eve Lewis Prieto, director of meditation at Headspace and the narrator of the new series, tells Stylist. “When we were talking about it with Netflix they were obviously like, ‘Whoa, we don’t want to send people to sleep’. But the series really is focused on guiding people to better rest. So, if people do fall asleep, particularly people who’ve been struggling with their sleep, then I think that’s a win.”
Designed to give viewers the tools they need to get a good night’s sleep and wake up ready to take on the day, the new series is filled with useful facts, tips and tricks to help you take control of your rest, covering subjects from the impact of phone usage on sleep to the role meditation can play in promoting better rest.
Told through a series of bright, eye-catching animations and accompanied by Lewis Prieto’s engaging narration, the series – which is a follow-up to Headspace’s first Netflix venture, the Headspace Guide To Meditation – is helpful whether you’re struggling to fall asleep, keep waking up in the middle of the night or simply want to learn more about the science behind it.
“Sleep is universal, right?” Lewis Prieto says. “We all need it, and a lot of us don’t get the sleep that we need, or we don’t get sleep that is restorative. So, this seven-part series is really focused on dealing with a lot of the science behind sleep – the actual facts.”
As a series from Headspace, led by the brand’s director of meditation, it’s only natural that the series delves into the relationship between sleep, meditation and mindfulness. Indeed, according to Lewis Prieto, mindfulness meditation isn’t just a great way to wind down before bed – by bringing more awareness into your day-to-day life, mindfulness meditation can benefit your sleep by making it easier to switch off at night.
“It’s very easy to get caught up in the challenges that we’re experiencing, whether it’s work stress, family, the pandemic, you name it,” she says. “And I think right now, it’s also really easy to just bounce from one Zoom call to the next without taking breaks, eating lunch on the go, and then going straight into the evening, where a lot of us want to unwind by watching TV.
“And you know, throughout the whole day, we haven’t really tuned in to what’s happening in the body and what’s happening around us, so when we get to bed, where we don’t have the same distractions as we do during the day and the mind can often feel much busier, our mind is just still very active.”
Lewis Prieto continues: “So if we’re able to just put those pauses in, give the mind a moment to actually just have a break and have a bit of a rest… if we can have that greater sense of clarity and calm, there’s a higher chance – I’m not going to say it always happens – that you’ll be able to put down the busyness.”
Lewis Prieto adds that, while meditation may not be the answer to every sleep problem out there, the sense of calm and reflection it produces is a great place to start.
“I was reading something the other day about how meditation and mindfulness don’t make our challenges and stressors disappear – but isn’t it easier and better to approach them with a clearer, calmer mind? The same goes for our sleep.”
So, alongside introducing mindfulness into your day – whether that’s through traditional mindfulness meditation or through more active techniques such as mindful breathing or walking – what else can you do to help yourself switch off at night?
With this in mind, we asked Lewis Prieto to share three of her top tips. And while she’s keen to stress that everyone’s situation is different (and therefore what works for her might not work for everyone), her advice is still a great place to start.
Lewis Prieto’s top tips for switching off before bed
Create a boundary between day and night
“I think one of the things that puts barriers between us and sleep is that we go from the day into sleep without having any space in between, so there’s no time for the body to wind down, and no time for the mind to calm down,” she says.
“Based on my experiences, I’ve found it helpful to have a shower at the end of the day, to kind of wash off the day before I get into bed, as part of my wind down routine. Feeling the warm water helps me feel a bit more cosy and puts a bit of pause between the day and sleep.”
Take some time to pause
“If I’ve had a particularly busy or full day, I will do some sort of wind down exercise, whether that’s a breathing exercise or, for example, one of the visualisations from the show,” she says.
“If you don’t want to do a wind down exercise, perhaps try putting on a calming playlist. There are lots of soundscapes and music playlists in the Headspace app which are designed – and I’m not an expert on this – but the beats and the harmonies they’ve used are there to help enhance or infuse a sense of calm.”
Don’t force it
“I think the biggest thing of all is, if you’re lying in bed, staring at the ceiling with the mind worrying, and sleep feels really far away, try not to force it,” she recommends.
“I think if that is the case, try getting out of bed and doing a bit of a mundane activity like folding some laundry, reading some book or listening to some relaxing music, just to help bring on that sense of sleepiness.”
Netflix’s Headspace Guide To Sleep is available to watch now