In the Before Times™, I had very little trouble falling asleep. I had my set wind-down routine that included a warm bath, chamomile tea, and reading a book before conking out by 10:30. But since the coronavirus pandemic hit, my sleep and wake schedules have been thrown all out of whack. More than a year later, my routine hasn't recovered, and, coupled with the overall stress of life, my sleep has suffered. Luckily, I found some relief in the Headspace Guide to Sleep series, which was released on Netflix today.
Headspace, the mindfulness app, provides guided meditations to help you wind down, focus, diffuse anger, and help you sleep. For this series, produced by Vox Media Studios, Headspace teamed up with Netflix to release seven episodes that break down different sleep facts, myths, and tips to help you sleep. Each animated episode, soothingly narrated by mindfulness and meditation teacher Eve Lewis Prieto, spends the first few minutes diving into evidence-based information about sleep. The last 10-12 minutes include guided wind-downs designed to help you relax into a restful slumber.
Headspace Guide to Sleep on Netflix Review
As a health and fitness editor, I've written my fair share about sleep, so I know you can't make up for lost sleep by sleeping in the weekends, alcohol doesn't actually help you sleep, and practicing meditation can help calm the nervous system to help you get a better snooze. But even I learned some new stuff from this series, such as two to three cups of coffee before 5 p.m. (not noon like I originally thought) shouldn't be an issue for falling asleep if you have a high caffeine tolerance (*raises hand*). Eve also taught me that the idea of exercising at night interrupting your sleep is a little overblown; just make sure you time your workout a few hours before you go to bed.
But perhaps most importantly, I learned that while blue light from our screens does interfere with melatonin production and sleep, and the release of dopamine from a like on social media or text from a friend can interrupt your brain's ability to wind down, it's nearly impossible to ignore screens altogether in the bedroom. Fortunately, there are ways to leverage our phones and devices for better sleep. Some of her tips include listening to a podcast, meditation app, or audio book that will help you wind down.
Does the Headspace Guide to Sleep on Netflix Help You Sleep?
Another way was, of course, the 10-ish minutes of each episode that included a wind-down routine to prep you for sleep. I admittedly have never tried this from an app or guided meditation before, and was skeptical that it would help me turn off my anxious brain to fall asleep.
Although each guided wind-down is slightly different, they all include starting in a comfortable place (I was laying down on my back in bed). She begins by guiding you through a few deep breaths: in through your nose and out through your mouth. You can place your hand on your stomach to feel the movement of the breaths, which reminded me of a yoga or Pilates class. She then guides you through visualizations, such as the first part of your day and how your day proceeded, and imaging a steady flow of warm sunlight flowing through the body. A few minutes later, if your mind is still active, she prompts you to slowly count backwards from 1,000.
For me, I found Eve's voice so soothing and the beginning deep breaths and visualizations so relaxing that I fell asleep within minutes all three nights I did the wind-downs. I didn't make it to the end of any of the episodes, which, in this case, was a good thing. And not only did I fall asleep quickly, but I also didn't wake up in the middle of the night with anxiety like I normally do.
I don't have a TV in my bedroom and instead watched the show on my phone, but if I have any trouble sleeping in the future, I will be sure to pull out my phone or iPad and settle in with these guided wind-downs. Eve's voice alone is enough to make my eyes heavy, and the guided visualizations finally quieted my busy mind enough to get some quality sleep.