The Sleep Hacks and Habits of 11 Extremely Busy People

Rule no. 1: No fights over the thermostat

July 30, 2018 9:00 am

The morning routines of famous people have long been popular internet fodder.

By now, we all have a good sense of whether we belong in the “yoga at dawn” or “hoover a piece of untoasted bread while running for train” camp.

So today we shift the focus to a less heralded but equally vital portion of the day: bedtime.

We asked a group of 11 friends — some in the snooze industry, some just successful go-getters — about their EOD decompression rituals.

From room temp to boxing to a little something called “Nightfood,” their answerzzz are indispensable.

Dr. Michael Breus
Diplomat of the American Board of Sleep Medicine, Advisory Board Member at Nightfood
Counting sheep: I’m a sleep doctor. I go to bed consistently at 12 and get up between 6 and 6:15 A.M. The only time my career affects my sleep is when I travel. But I’ll use to form a jet lag plan.
Tech in the bedroom: I usually charge my phone in a separate room. I wear blue blockers at night when I watch TV or read. Many times, I’ll fall asleep with the TV on.
Snooze hacks: I use the GoodNight Table Lamp on my nightstand, along with an iHome Zenergy sound machine. I’ll usually eat a NightFood bar, which helps manage those late-night snack cravings. And if I’ve had anything to drink, MUTE is an excellent anti-snoring device. I like to read, but nothing in particular, usually a spy story. And I usually meditate while falling asleep.

Dr. Darria Long Gillespie
ER Doctor On Faculty at Erlanger Hospital Emergency Medicine, Author of Mom Hacks
Counting sheep: My husband is one of those people who can fall asleep before his head even hits the pillow … but I am not so lucky. Since my line of work as an ER doctor can keep me up at all hours and require an erratic sleep schedule, I have to be especially deliberate about my sleep habits.
Tech in the bedroom: I try to put away my phone and all other devices at least an hour before bed. If I need to do work late, I always use my devices on the nighttime setting, at the lowest possible light level while wearing blue-light Blocker glasses.
Snooze hacks: Never use the same lights at night that you use in the morning. Either install smart bulbs that are programmed to emit less blue light late at night, utilize dimmers or use a few low-wattage (under 40 watts) lamps. Bedroom temperature is crucial as well: scientific studies have shown that a temperature of 64-68° is optimal for sleep. Lastly, If I’m wired and having trouble settling down my brain, I’ll do a progressive muscle relaxation routine. Starting with your feet, clench the muscle groups of your feet and calves, causing your toes to point down. Hold it for five or 10 seconds and really feel the tension, then let go and embrace the relaxation. Move out through major muscle groups, from your quads, to your buttocks/back, to your shoulders and neck, focusing each time on the tension and then the relaxation. Some people will repeat the cycle twice. Others fall asleep even before they’ve finished.

Ely Khakshouri
CEO of Westridge Outdoors
Counting sheep: Work can make sleep very difficult. When I’m leaving the office, our overseas partners are just starting the day. At that point, it can feel like my day is just getting going. It’s especially hard getting a full night’s sleep when the people and firms you count on the most are emailing you nonstop just as you’re ready to turn in.
Tech in the bedroom: I try to disconnect from tech around 10 pm, but my success rate is probably on par with Shaq’s free-throw percentage. If need a little extra help tiring my eyes, I always have a book or two by my bedside.
Snooze hacks: I try to involve exercise over technology in my nighttime routine. Specifically, I love evening bike rides when the streets are quiet and the rush-hour traffic has subsided. Back home, my wife and I have a “72 degrees when sleeping” rule. In terms of specific products: I really like my shredded memory foam pillow. It has the benefits of traditional memory foam pillows but is less rigid. And I absolutely love exercising early in the morning. Starting my day earlier and getting in a workout directly impacts what time I head to bed at night.

Christian Mongillo
Business Development Manager of HubSpot for Startups at HubSpot
Counting sheep: My company is based on the East Coast and I’m located in San Francisco. As a result, I’m usually up early answering emails, and have to go to the gym at night. By the end of the day I’m usually toast and ready for bed.
Tech in the bedroom: I’m guilty of the endless Instagram scroll in bed every now and then. Most nights, though, I intentionally stay away from technology. I use F.lux for my computer screen to decrease blue-light exposure toward the end of the day while finishing work.
Snooze hacks: I discovered bamboo sheets two years ago and they’re the bee’s knees. Super breathable and light. Otherwise, I’m easy. I love keeping the windows open. Books help me wind down, and non-fiction tends to be more reliable for promoting sleep in my experience. I’m also religious about working out each night at a local boxing gym — otherwise there’d be way too much post-work energy. The most essential practice, though? Meditation. If I can meditate 10 minutes a night, three times a week, I’m pretty proud of myself.

Neil Parikh
Co-founder and COO at Casper
Counting sheep: I’m not sure my sleeping patterns are consistent enough to have a reputation. If I’m really exhausted, it doesn’t take long for me to zonk out.
Tech in the bedroom: I recently started using an Oura ring to track my sleep patterns and found it helpful for making small adjustments for a better night’s sleep, such as going to bed at a consistent time or being mindful to avoid eating heavy meals late at night.
Snooze hacks: Obviously, I sleep on all Casper products! I’ve been sleeping on the same Casper mattress since we launched in 2014. Anytime I travel, I desperately miss it. I also try to prioritize meditation at least once a day, which often happens before bed. Even if only for a few minutes, it makes a huge difference.

Peter Conley
Blogger at
Counting sheep: [Because I have] narcolepsy, I can fall asleep quite quickly, but the sleep is often fragmented. I work as a project manager for a web-design company, though, so luckily my career is a fairly standard 9-5, M-F.
Tech in the bedroom: Lack of technology is crucial to my routine. Blue light from screens trigger the release of cortisol and suppress melatonin production in humans, which is the exact opposite thing you want to have happening when winding down for bed.
Snooze hacks: My pre-sleep routine includes a room temp of 60 degrees, disconnection from technology by 9 P.M., chamomile tea with 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar, podcasts on podcasts (or paperback fiction), deep stretching and yin yoga with vipassana meditation.

Stephanie Popso
Health and Wellness Coach
Counting sheep: I have an energetic 14-month-old, so when it’s time for me to sleep, I usually hit the pillow hard and keep my fingers crossed.
Tech in the bedroom: There’s a growing body of research that shows how poor sleep negatively impacts overall health. It’s important to emphasize sleep hygiene — better sleep habits, a cleaner bed environment and a successful bedtime routine. Limiting nighttime stimulants like electronics an hour before bed, which I am a big advocate of, is one way to do so. I disconnect around 9:30 P.M. and head upstairs to start my evening routine. I brush my teeth, wash my face, put on PJs and read or write for a bit.
Snooze hacks: An ideal bedroom conveys sleep and relaxation; it should feel quiet, safe and cozy. My husband and I use blackout drapes (to block a nearby street light), a white-noise machine and keep our room temperature at 72 degrees to create a relaxing sleep environment. We also enclose our mattress in an AllerEase Maximum mattress protector, which helps keep sleep-disruptors like dust, pollen, bed bugs and dander at bay. I take a magnesium supplement before bed, and will use breathwork, meditation or reflection to prepare myself for a restful sleep.

Adam Sansiveri
Director at Bernstein Private Wealth Management
Counting sheep: I don’t always sleep. But when I do, I’m usually passed out in a couple minutes. I’m out and about the city at least five nights a week, and that is one of the best parts of my job. I spend a lot of time enjoying and supporting the passions of my clients. Whether it’s having dinners or drinks at their favorite restaurants, seeing Broadway shows with a producer, investor or star, attending my artists’ concerts and backstage festivities or just hitting an evening yoga or Barry’s Bootcamp, my career has a major impact on my sleep habits.
Tech in the bedroom: When I’m home I make sure to turn my phone over and NOT look at Instagram after 9 P.M. I will only check email or text messages a few times before bed, and never in bed. I’m big into meditation and love Deepak and Oprah’s guided meditation app. I use this on the occasional night when my mind is too busy and I can’t shut it off on my own.
Snooze hacks: I always have a white noise machine going. This was a habit that formed when I used to live in a noisy apartment 14 years ago, and it’s followed me everywhere. I also use a grounding mat under my sheets. I’m a New Yorker, and apparently we don’t touch the earth enough. The mat is supposed to help … ground you. Whether or not that’s true, I sleep like a baby. For consumption at the end of the day, nothing takes the edge of like a good martini — though I usually take a VESPA supplement to help metabolize the alcohol.

Stephanie Sica
CEO and Founder at Orchard and Broome
Counting sheep: The combo of being both a startup CEO and publicist is pretty killer in terms of always being “on.” But I’m one of those people who doesn’t function well when sleep-deprived, so I’ve learned to prioritize my sleep schedule and bookending routines.
Tech in the bedroom: In the evenings, I try to get off my computer by about 7 P.M. and then cook a nutritious meal (the health, monetary and mental benefits make it worth it). Then there’s a bit of variable time that I fill in one way or another before going for an evening walk with my dog around 9, which sort of commences the “wind down.” At that point, I try not to check my email from my phone either.
Snooze hacks: I like to spend about 30 minutes reading a book once in bed. Something entirely for leisure — maybe a murder mystery. My key is meditation, though. Religiously, after I turn out the lights, I’ll put on the daily meditation via Calm, my favorite app. It’s about 10 minutes or so, and I’m usually out like a light by the end of it.

Dr. Nate Watson
Professor of Neurology at the University of Washington, Advisory Board Member at SleepScore Labs
Counting sheep: I’m lucky because I fall asleep quickly and typically stay that way throughout the entire night.
Tech in the bedroom: One hour before bed, I turn off all screens and begin my bedtime routine. I may read to make myself drowsy, but that isn’t necessary for me to fall asleep. My alarm clock is actually the only technology in my bedroom other than my phone. I used to charge my phone in another room of the house, but now I use SleepScore every night to get a solid, objective picture of how my sleep went.
Snooze hacks: For my bedroom temp, the colder the better. I’ll aim for about 67 degrees or so in general. I use an analog white-noise machine by Marpac called Dohm. It’s a small fan with baffles around the plastic shell that can be adjusted to change characteristics of the sound. Because it isn’t digital, there aren’t any sound loops for you to pick up on that might disrupt your sleep.  

Alex Wilson
Cofounder of Wayside Cider
Counting sheep: I’m a famously good sleeper and it drives my wife and family crazy, as they all struggle with sleep. I can and have slept almost anywhere — from a mud floor in an African fishing village to my hammock in the woods in the Catskills. I just need to put my head down.
Tech in the bedroom: As a habit, I don’t take a phone or laptop into my bedroom; it’s not a big deal if I do, but I just tend not to spend time on technology before sleeping.
Snooze Hacks: I’m the happiest sleeping in the countryside, with clean air and the windows open …  I love to wake up to natural light coming through the windows. Sleeping outside is also a great way to wake up super refreshed. I enjoy listening to calming music and meditating before going to bed, especially if I’m in a big city.

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