Some Advice on How to Sleep Well

This is an excerpt from Sarah Wilson’s Sunday Column in August 2009:


Sarah on sleep:

So, yes, this week I’ve been on a sleep retreat at Gwinganna in the Gold Coast hinterland. For those too fatigued to make it to the end of this page, a few drop-into-your-next-water-cooler-chat factoids: eat turkey and pepitas to sleep better; please don’t eat avocado, cheese or rice (!) at night (they contain tyramine which blocks melatonin production), nor grapefruit. Go to bed by ten. If you don’t, your body will ache (body repair occurs between 10pm and 2am). And get 7-8 hours. Or you’ll get fat. There that woke you up! Sleep debt causes cortisol to rise, which shuts down metabolism (more on this in a few weeks).

However, the real secret to perfect, age-restoring, fat-fighting, cancer-preventing sleep is….got your fluorescent highlighters ready?…routine.

It’s really not a sexy revelation, is it. But I’ve just had a solid week of rigid, wholesome, wrapped-in-hessian routine and I can’t tell you how liberated I feel. And I lost 2kg.

I’ve taken what I learnt, added my own frosting and here, dear reader, the cupcake of routine goodness that now works for me: rise at 6am. Slide straight into your sneakers. Exercise straight from home – none of this driving to the gym business. It invites procrastination or piking. A simple 30-minute walk is perfect. Then I meditate. By exercising first, I find, my mind is settled ready for meditation.

I then shower, take a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar (to wake digestion) and eat porridge. According to Eastern traditions, a hot, dense breakfast is the best way to ground your energy; cold foods, such as muesli, require heat to digest, which saps energy from your system at that hour.

At night, it’s simple. Eat by 7pm. Computer off by 8pm. In bed by 9.45pm. Repeat for a week and watch your skin glow, your phone manner become more attentive and sleep strike you like a blow to the head with a fat doona.


Lots of very successful people have routines. I know this because I used to read the RSS feeds late at night from, which chronicles famous people’s routines in ablutive detail. See if you can see a pattern here. Winston Churchill and Truman Capote cite haphazard routine, a few hours sporadic sleep and highly toxic tendencies. The closest Churchill got to routine was a daily whisky at 11am.

At the other end of the spectrum, C.S. Lewis, Michelle Obama, the delightfully Zen writer Haruki Murakami and Benjamin Franklin boasted routines of rising early, exercising, and eating and retiring at regular times. Franklin even wrote a flow-chart. 7pm: “Put things in their places. Supper. Music.”

I don’t need to spell it out, do I? Or finish with a concluding line that says, yes, sleep is making my life sweeter and less achy? Or admit, yes Mum, you were right, your frenetic daughter with a shemozzled set of life systems could do with a dull routine? Do I?


This seems pretty straight forward, but we always need reminders, don’t we?

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