How to squeeze sleep into a busy schedule, according to these successful women

Posted by for Life

We asked podcaster Laura Jackson, presenter Emma Barnett and singer Ella Eyre how they fit 40 winks into their hectic lives.               

LAURA JACKSON, podcaster

Laura Jackson
Laura doesn’t believe in caffeine curfews

I can sleep anywhere, any time, any place. I could sleep under a speaker in a nightclub; I just love my sleep. After I had a baby, the hardest thing was the broken sleep, especially when I was used to having a lot. Now she sleeps from 7pm to 7am; maybe she gets it from me.

Having a bad night’s sleep has quite a big effect on me. It stops me thinking straight. Everything is harder: exercise, talking, thinking. Sleep is important for resetting; if you’re upset or stressed you can sleep it off.

I compartmentalise before bedtime. I put things in little boxes and try not to overthink them, because otherwise you go to bed a bit buzzy and don’t get a good night’s sleep. 

A sleepcast? I don’t know what that is. Why would you be on your phone when you’re trying to sleep? That seems so stupid. Just have a bath and spray some lavender on your pillow. I use This Works Deep Sleep Pillow Spray.

Quiet time, no matter where you are before bed, is always helpful. Reading a book is nice, obviously, sat on your phone scrolling through Instagram is not great. It’s common sense. A bath is good because you can really unwind. It’s a meditative space.

I don’t have a curfew for tea. I wouldn’t have an espresso before going to bed but I do drink about 10 cups of Yorkshire tea all day, every day. It doesn’t affect me whatsoever. Maybe I’m immune to it because I am so northern.

I’m not obsessive about anything, except buying homeware. Life is all about balance. I’m not on Instagram for four hours a night because it’s not fair on my husband. I don’t watch telly all night either; it’s about trying to use my time as well as I can. And it’s important for me to sleep so I feel rested. I know my body needs time to repair from the day.

I’m not militant about when I go to sleep. I have early nights and late nights. If you break your own rules and give yourself a hard time about it, the rules start to feel counterproductive. 

But I have a rule for jetlag. Wherever I land, I’ll go to bed at midnight and I’ll get up at 7am. That usually works; even if I’m knackered, I’ll just try and stay up the latest that I can and force myself to get up early the next morning.

I’m the most unsexy bedroom person ever. I wear socks, pyjamas, a vest, a dressing gown. I’m all about comfort.

All I’ve ever wanted is to have a comfy bed. I love it so much. I’ve reached the age where I have a nice duvet, covers, linen (I love Soak & Sleep, The White Company and Trove Linens). It’s like getting into a marshmallow. Heaven. I go to hotels and think, this isn’t as good as my bedroom. 

Laura Jackson’s podcast HOSTEing , sponsored by Liz Earle, is available now.

EMMA BARNETT, presenter

Emma Barnett
Emma visualizes the rooms in her old house to help her drift off.

I do all the things the experts tell you not to do at night. Working on Newsnight, I’m in front of monitors, it’s late, it’s live for 45 minutes so my adrenaline goes up. It can be very difficult to come down afterwards. I have a beer with the team after the show. It’s great for chilling out. You’re not looking at your phone or checking social media to see how the show went down.

I have a chat with my mum on the way home and that helps me wind down. Once I’m home I might have a piece of toast or a shot of whisky. I’m in bed by 1am. If I have my 5 Live show the next morning, I’ll be up at 6am.

Our little boy is turning two and he is going through a good phase. You treasure it. In the few first months of their life, you go through a stage of constant fear that they’re going to wake up so you panic sleep, which is a whole other genre of sleep I wasn’t aware of. 

If I really can’t sleep, I’ll walk around the rooms of the house I grew up in. It’s a methodical thing to do in your mind. I drift off before I reach the final room.

Our personal phones have become our work phones. It’s a problem so I’m trying to have a cut-off point in the evenings for reading work-related messages. Otherwise I can have these weird dreams about an author or politician who is coming on the show the next morning. The Archbishop of Canterbury talking to Hillary Clinton in your head is quite a mixed-up vibe.

I always have good intentions about winding down in my evenings off. I’m cooking again. I’m working my way through Diana Henry’s cookbook, From The Oven To The Table. I do read in bed but I just want to go to sleep because I’m knackered.

I can’t go to bed without moisturised lips. I always put on lip balm. I use micellar water to take off make-up and apply moisturiser. At worst, I use a face wipe. If I’m feeling really fancy, I’ll floss.

Heating is one of the great gender wars. I’m a very cold person so the bedroom needs to be warm. My husband would have the window open but that’s just not on. I turn the heating up in any studio I’m in. Sorry to all men out there. 

You know those cool girls who like to sleep in a flimsy vest and some knickers? That’s not me. I’m full pyjamas. Nice printed pyjamas but full pyjamas. I’ve got to be toasty.

My grandmother and cousin died when I was about eight and afterwards I had insomnia. I believed that if I went to sleep, other people would die. At the time, my mum gave me some clever advice: she said it doesn’t matter if you sleep, just relax. That worked.

People ask me, how do you do a 10am and a 10pm show? I can’t nap on those days, so I don’t really talk to anyone for a few hours in the middle of the day and that conserves energy. I just let other people talk to me. 

Emma Barnett is a presenter on Newsnight , BBC Radio 5 Live and BBC Sounds.

ELLA EYRE, musician

Ella Eyre
Ella loves having a nighttime beauty routine.

I wake up early because I’m thinking about all the things I need to do. Unless I’ve gone to bed with everything done – which is never – I’ll wake up at 6am. I won’t sleep again until I’ve made a start on them. I’m an artist and I’m freelance, so there are a lot of moving parts.

The gym work I do is so exhausting that I sleep better. It’s interval training, HIIT. It gets your heart rate up. If I go to the gym at 6pm and eat about 8pm, I’m usually asleep by midnight. I don’t have trouble sleeping. When I am ready to sleep, I will just switch off.

I am an incredible sleeper in transit. I love flying; I’m not one of those people who watches movies. As soon as I am sat down, I sleep until the flight lands, though I wake up for food. 

My mum always said I loved being rocked to sleep. Movement still sends me to sleep. So whether I am in a car, or on the Tube, or in an Uber – if I’m lacking sleep, I can make up for it anywhere. That is my gift. Also, there’s nothing to do on a plane. If I stay awake on a flight, I’m just so bored. It’s much better for my mindset to get some sleep.

This weird sleepcast on Headspace helps me sleep. It’s called Cat Marina and it has the sound of trickling water and a cat meowing. If I’m struggling, like when I’m jetlagged, that works.

I love sleeping on tour buses. Those little bunk beds. It feels like sleeping in a crib.

On tour, I don’t go out to parties. I’ll come off stage, have a shower, a tea – I’ll eat before the gig – and get into bed on the tour bus. There will be 12 beds in there so it can get noisy. My trick is noise-cancelling earphones. Same with planes. I have in-ear Bose ones. They are a lifesaver. 

I don’t drink coffee after 5pm. Every time I do it, I regret it.

I love a bedtime beauty routine. I don’t like to wear a lot of make-up but sometimes on shoots it’s unavoidable. I like Kiehl’s Calendula Deep Cleansing Foaming Face Wash – that gets rid of toxins. My favourite night mask is Dr Barbara Sturm’s Clarifying Face Cream; I love that if I’ve got blotches or my skin isn’t feeling too even.

My hair is a natural cushion, so I don’t care what the pillow is. When I had braids, my scalp was a lot more exposed than normal so I liked a cushiony pillow, like a marshmallow. 

Ella Eyre’s single New Me is out now. She starts touring the UK in May.

Photography: Chris Floyd, Jon Gorrigan

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