Sleep can be such a fickle thing. Even though most of us know that 6-8 hours of sleep is what we need in order to function properly throughout the day—if it's not our schedules, it's stress. If it's not stress, it's hormonal shifts. If it's not hormonal shifts, it's feeling uncomfortable. If it's not feeling uncomfortable, it's being restless. Lawd. In many ways, getting a better night of sleep, consistently so, is a bit like walking a tightrope…although it doesn't have to be.
If something that you would like, more than ever right about now, is to get more peaceful zzz's in, you might be in luck. If there is one thing that I'm gonna do, pretty much on a regular basis, it's get some good sleep in. And if you're looking to learn how to get better sleep, the 15 hacks below have all played a role in making that happen.
1. Get the Right Pillows
I've got a friend who once said something so funny to me when it comes to his approach to disciplining children. He said, "Why spank them when you can just take their pillows away? Ever slept without one before? It's hell." Me? I'm the kind of person who probably has too many pillows on my bed, so I can only imagine what putting my head directly on a mattress, all night long, would feel like. I do know a bad pillow is filled with tossing and turning episodes. So yeah, I'm gonna lead this article with the recommendation to get the right kind of pillows to sleep on.
First, ponder if you are a back, side or stomach sleeper (stomach sleeping isn't good for you, by the way. It does reduce snoring; however, it also puts more strain on your neck and back). You can check out a list of some of the best pillows for your favorite positions here.
Also, make sure you know when it's time to replace the pillows that you've already got. What are some telling signs? If you've had them for more than a couple of years; if you experience neck pain in the morning; if when you fold them over, they don't return to their original shape, and/or you wake up feeling like you're having an allergy attack (this usually means you're taking in dust mites), it's time to move on and get some that are brand spanking new.
2. Get a Cooling Mattress Pad While You’re at It Too
I don't know about y'all, but I HATE sleeping when I'm hot. That's why I'm all about sleeping naked and I'm thrilled about having a cooling mattress pad. See, even if you fall asleep feeling pretty comfortable, it's not uncommon to wake up in the middle of the night feeling either really hot or even sweating some. This happens because our body tends to change temperatures throughout the nighttime hours. Something that can help to prevent this from becoming a problem is putting a cooling mattress pad on your bed. Another benefit with this kind of pad is it can extend the lifespan of your mattress (you should cop a new mattress every 6-8 years, by the way). If you don't already own one and you'd like to look into making this particular investment, you can check out the pros and cons of some pretty popular brands here.
3. Put Yourself on a Sleep Schedule
Isn't it crazy that most of us have our kids on a sleep schedule so that they can get a good night's rest and yet, when it comes to us, we don't follow suit? A sleep schedule is important, not just because it can ensure that you receive the 6-8 hours, every night, that your body needs, it also helps to "train your mind" to fall asleep (and wake up) at a particular time.
This isn't just my opinion either; science strongly backs this up. So, if you're someone who goes to bed at midnight sometimes, 10 p.m. sometimes or when you're super exhausted, at 8, and you're wondering why you are always tired or dragging, try setting a firm time for a couple of weeks and see if that helps you out. I'd be shocked if it doesn't. By the way, you can test out some cool sleep tracking apps here.
4. Eat Light at Night
Something that I have a bad habit of is eating too heavy or much at night. Because I spend a lot of time writing, sometimes the day gets away from me and I actually have dinner at 8 or 9 when it should be more like 6 or 7 and definitely a meal that's on a lighter side than steak and a salad. The reason why going lighter is better is because, when you go to bed on a full stomach, your body has to work that much harder to digest your food which can disrupt your sleep patterns.
Matter of fact, some scientific research says that going with a big breakfast and lunch and having something super light for dinner is really your best bet (especially if you want to burn fat in the process). You're grown. You're gonna do what you wanna do. Still, if dinner is your biggest meal of the day, maybe go with it being breakfast or lunch instead and see if that changes anything. For the better.
5. Nix All Coffee and Alcohol at Night Too
I'm thinking that it makes pretty clear sense why you should leave java (and all forms of caffeine) alone in the evening. Since caffeine is a stimulant, it's the last thing that you need when you're trying to catch some zzz's. Matter of fact, it's actually recommended that your last cup should be somewhere around 2 p.m. As far as alcohol goes, while a nice glass of wine may feel soothing initially, there's a clear reason why it's pretty problematic. Alcohol has a way of interrupting REM sleep (REM stands for Rapid Eye Movement and it's one of the five stages of sleep that your body goes through) which can lead to all sorts of sleep disruptions. This is why folks who drink at night oftentimes think that they are battling insomnia when really, the alcohol is what's doing them in.
6. Sip on Some Decaf Green Tea (Two Hours Before)
So, what should you consume in place of coffee or alcohol? Green tea is a cool option. The catechins (antioxidants) in it contain strong medicinal/healing properties. The amino acid theanine that's also in it will reduce stress and promote a good night's rest. Just make sure that you go with the kind that is decaf (for obvious reasons) and that you have your final cup about two hours before turning in. Otherwise, all of that drinking could have you getting up in the middle of the night—and if you're anything like me, that could make it hard to fall back asleep (which totally sucks).
7. Rub the Soles of Your Feet with CBD or Lavender Oil
Let me tell you what has totally changed my life for the better when it comes to sleep quality—rubbing CBD oil or lavender essential oil onto the soles of my feet. CBD oil is bomb because there's scientific evidence to support that it decreases anxiety, reduces stress levels and is even good for pain management. Lavender oil? Because it contains anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties, it's great when it comes to soothing sore or aching feet. Plus, it's got a calming scent and sensation that is pretty incomparable.
What I typically do is mix one of these oils with a carrier oil like sweet almond or grapeseed and rub my feet down for about 10 minutes before turning in. The reason why I prefer my feet is because oils absorb faster on that part of the body. Plus, since feet have 72,000 nerve endings, it's able to reach a ton of different cells, all throughout my system. Yours too. How dope is that?
8. Have a Banana
If you're someone who's just gotta have a snack before turning in, how about a banana? Not only is it the kind of fruit that contains a good amount of tryptophan (more on that in a sec), it's also a good source of potassium and magnesium. Potassium aids in sleep because it helps your nerves and muscles to get on the same page so that you're better able to relax. Magnesium is awesome because it helps to regulate your body's stress-response system. Not only that but studies show that people who have some sort of a magnesium deficiency typically experience higher amounts of stress and anxiety. So, the more you've got, the calmer you'll be.
9. Or Snack on Some Other Forms of Tryptophan
If you've ever wondered exactly what tryptophan is and why it tends to make you so sleepy, the brief breakdown is it's the kind of amino acid that goes from the digestive system to your brain and then turns into a chemical known as serotonin which aids in making you sleepy so that you can rest. That's why, another hack that you might want to try, is snacking on some foods that are high in tryptophan (or eating a light dinner with foods that contain it). Some of those include milk, cheese, nuts, oats, chicken, turkey, canned tuna, seeds, soy and eggs.
10. Turn Down Your Thermostat
Once you're ready to shut your house down for the rest of the night, make it a point to turn down your thermostat. As far as what the temperature should be, I've read everything from 62 to 68 degrees, so somewhere around there. Since it's cooler at night outdoors, this should actually cut your energy costs down. And, it's another way to keep your body from overheating before sunrise.
11. Do Some Yoga
Since yoga is a meditative form of exercise, it should come as no surprise that it's a pretty great sleep hack. In fact, quite a few yoga practitioners vouch for the fact that it can help you to sleep and definitely can decrease your stress levels. The deep breathing can relax you. The mindfulness can increase your melatonin (a natural hormone that helps you to rest) levels. And exercise is always great at providing more intense rest. So, if yoga is something that you've been considering but still haven't tried, this is just one more reason to follow through on your plans.
12. Write Your To-Do Lists an Hour Before Turning In
Isn't it interesting that when it comes to learning how to live in the moment, a lot of us don't take this pearl of wisdom into account when it comes to resting? Going to bed worrying about what is going to happen the next day is going to do us a bit of good when it comes to getting a good night's rest.
Besides, when you're well rested, you are far more equipped to handle what is to come anyway. That's why it's always a good idea to write down your to-do list—in order of importance—no less than a couple of hours before going to sleep. It's an exercise that says, "I'm done for today. I'll tackle tomorrow…tomorrow."
It really can shout your overthinking down, so that you can relax so much easier.
13. Also, Write Down Five Things from the Day That You’re Thankful For
Another writing exercise that can be really beneficial is to take out 10 minutes or so to jot down five things, from each day, that you're thankful for. Believe it or not, expressing feelings of gratitude is an effective way to release toxins in your system, lower your cortisol (stress) levels and relax your muscles and nervous system. Plus, it helps you to keep things in perspective; especially on what felt like a really bad day.
14. Put in Some Ear Plugs
I'm someone who either prefers total silence or the ASMR sounds of rain. If you can relate, you might want to get yourself some ear plugs. Oftentimes, even though we're asleep, our brain is still catching all of the sounds around us which can actually prevent us from sleeping as soundly as we like or even need. And so, ear plugs are what can get us as close to silence as possible. That said, the main red flags are 1) if you're a single parent (especially with a young child), this probably isn't the wisest hack and/or 2) you've got to clean your ear plugs on a regular basis. Otherwise, the wax build-up could cause a hell of an ear infection. Anyway, some of the best earplugs for sleeping can be found here.
15. Unplug an Hour Before
One more. A couple of years ago, I wrote the article, "8 Solid Reasons To Put. Your Phone. Down." for the site. When you get a chance, check it out, because there are many reasons why surfing the 'net on your phone or laptop right before turning in will totally wreck your sleep patterns. For starters, the blue light on your screens inhibits the production of melatonin which makes it harder for your body to relax. Whatever is on your electronic devices, they will be right there, waiting on you, come morning.
Make it a practice to sign off at least an hour before bedtime. Write your gratitude list. Catch up on a chapter of a book. Deep breathe and chill. Your brain has been looking at screens all day long. In order to get some rest, turn those suckers…off.
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Different puzzle pieces are creating bigger pictures these days. 2024 will mark a milestone on a few different levels, including the release of my third book next June (yay!).
I am also a Professional Certified Coach. My main mission for attaining that particular goal is to use my formal credentials to help people navigate through the sometimes tumultuous waters, both on and offline, when it comes to information about marriage, sex and relationships that is oftentimes misinformation (because "coach" is a word that gets thrown around a lot, oftentimes quite poorly).
I am also still super devoted to helping to bring life into this world as a doula, marriage life coaching will always be my first love (next to writing, of course), a platform that advocates for good Black men is currently in the works and my keystrokes continue to be devoted to HEALTHY over HAPPY in the areas of holistic intimacy, spiritual evolution, purpose manifestation and self-love...because maturity teaches that it's impossible to be happy all of the time when it comes to reaching goals yet healthy is a choice that can be made on a daily basis (amen?).
If you have any PERSONAL QUESTIONS (please do not contact me with any story pitches; that is an *editorial* need), feel free to reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org. A sistah will certainly do what she can. ;)
There are two words that Rachel Lindsay keeps returning to over and over again: Rest and renew.
The ambitious, self-described “type A” media personality just left one of her more prominent roles after three years, and instead of being anxious about the downtime, she’s finally learning to take a few moments for herself.
When we talk via Zoom in late August, Lindsay, 38, has just returned from a lunch date with a friend, the type of midday social outing she’d never had time for previously. In a week, she’ll be heading to Europe for an Eat, Pray, Love trip. It’s the first time she’s had time to go to Europe in five years.
“You ask me what I have time to do? Take care of me,” she says, beaming.
In the past six years, Lindsay has made a lot of changes. After becoming the first Black woman to lead ABC’s Bachelorette dating series in 2017, she fell in love with Bryan Abasolo, the man she chose on the show, and married him. Enamored with the world of entertainment but also accustomed to the stability that being an attorney provided her, she returned to practicing law in her native Dallas, Texas, while pursuing media opportunities on the side.
For a time, Lindsay would fly herself to Connecticut to co-host ESPN’s Football Frenzy radio show. The role was perfect for the Dallas Cowboys fan and sports fanatic who majored in sports management and once dreamed of becoming an agent. In 2019, when she finally felt she’d saved enough money and made enough connections, she made the leap and left the legal profession behind, determined to bet on her entertainment dreams.
Working as an on-air correspondent for Extra was one of Lindsay’s first big roles as a full-time media personality. In this job, she interviewed celebrities such as Halle Bailey and Anthony Anderson. She also notably conducted the controversial interview with Bachelor host Chris Harrison that subsequently led to his departure from the franchise. After Harrison told Lindsay he felt people needed to have “grace” for a contestant who had attended an “Old South” party, Lindsay publicly announced her plans to distance herself from the series.
Today, she cites changes in Extra’s leadership and her responsibilities as the reason for her recent departure after three years. “I just didn’t fit within the new regime,” she reveals to xoNecole.
Lindsay is currently focusing her energy work-wise on her two podcasts with The Ringer Podcast Network, the Higher Learningshow with Van Lathan, and Morally Corrupt. Despite the extremely different subjects – Higher Learning touches on race and politics while Morally Corrupt finds Lindsay commenting on her favorite Bravo reality shows – she gushes when speaking about both, calling podcasting “the most liberating thing you can do.”
On Higher Learning, she’s challenged by her co-host, Lathan, to think in new ways. She’s regularly in conversation with prominent figures such as Tracee Ellis Ross and Billy Porter.
Lindsay, a “Bravoholic” whose favorite Real Housewives franchise is Potomac and whose favorite Housewife is Nene Leakes, is no less passionate about Morally Corrupt, even if the subject matter is much lighter. “I’ve always loved reality TV because it was such an escape from my real world. Part of me admired people who could put themselves out there in a way that I believed I never could, until I went on reality TV,” Lindsay says.
Courtesy of Rachel Lindsay
The podcast host says she never intended to find love when she went on The Bachelor, and she was surprised when she was asked to lead season 13 of The Bachelorette. Going from viewer to reality TV star quickly opened her eyes to the demands of being a public figure. After receiving initial criticism from viewers about choosing and marrying Bryan Abasolo, she realized she wanted to become more protective of certain aspects of her personal life.
“I quickly learned that we had to protect what we had, and stop trying to prove it to other people and convince people to know what we knew to be true,” she says. “I wish I could share more of my relationship. But the moment you do that, you have to continue to provide more and you have to continue to answer.”
In many ways, Lindsay benefited from being on a show like The Bachelorette, where the contestants are confined to a limited environment over a temporary amount of time. She says she doesn’t think she could ever be on a reality show where she’s expected to reveal all aspects of her life constantly. In fact, she says if she ever had pregnancy news or updates about her relationship with Abasolo, she wouldn’t make a big public announcement.
Since walking away from The Bachelor franchise, the former Bachelor Happy Hour host says she’s been approached to participate in recent seasons, specifically this year’s season with Black lead, Charity Lawson. Lindsay says she ultimately declined to participate. “I just started thinking I can have a relationship with Charity – whose number I do have and I have talked to – outside of the show. I don’t need to come on television to put that out there for other people,” she says.
Reflecting on her life today, Lindsay is trying to learn the benefits of being still. She’s not planning to do any on-air correspondent work for the time being, and she’s not planning to release another book, the followup to the collection of essays Miss Me with That or the fictional Real Love.
As her 40th birthday approaches in a couple of years, she’s been thinking a lot about the popular quote, “You are, right now, as young as you'll ever be again” from the FX drama Fleishman Is in Trouble. If she does start on a new creative project, it might delve into this notion, she says. “I think I could do something in that space about adulthood and getting older and maybe questioning things in life because I think we all do it,” she tells xoNecole.
Lindsay is not rushing the process, though. For now, she’s remembering to rest and renew.
“We'll see what comes out of this state that I'm in.”
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Featured image courtesy of Rachel Lindsay
Whether it was your group chat, social media feed, or your favorite media outlet covering the spectacle, I’m pretty sure you’ve come across the viral Black wedding between actress KJ Smith (Sistas, Raising Kanan) and actor Skyh Black (All the Queen’s Men, Sistas). From their grand entrance to Jay-Z, Kayne West, and Beyoncé’s song “Lift Off” to KJ’s standout dance routine and the endless celebrity appearances, it’s an addictive TikTok scroll you can’t help but delve into.
But what many people would be surprised to know is that the couple’s original wedding plan was nothing like what it grew to be. What started as her simply scrolling through posts to get ideas eventually transformed into what the internet knows now as #TheBlackExperience. In an exclusive conversation with xoNecole, KJ walked us through her planning process, the morning of her wedding, and what she thinks of the online response.
Some women have their whole wedding planned out, from the bridal gown and venue to the bridal party and playlist. However, KJ was not one of those people. “I didn’t foresee a wedding in my future,” she reveals. “I was just gonna be the boss chick, rich auntie. I didn’t force love in my life until recently. I never had an idea of what a dream wedding would look like, it was easier for me to elope.”
Photo by Stanley Babb/ Stanlo Photography
And to many people’s surprise, that was their original plan – until Skyh brought up a valid concern. He was raised by his grandmother and thought she should be at the wedding, and naturally, that led to KJ wanting her grandmother to be there as well – then her mom – and later her sister – and, you’ve gotta invite the besties too, right? From there, the guest list continued to blossom. Much like the updo and pop of color bold red lip, she wore on her special day, which was initially on her Pinterest board as a soft glam look with her hair hanging on her shoulders, KJ is okay with changing her plan if it brings her and her loved ones happiness.
So let’s get into the wedding, which took place in Malibu, CA. The first thing you should know about the celebrity couple is that they’re non-traditional. They know, and they don’t care. So, in true unconventional fashion, they shared the morning of the wedding together.
“I woke up with Skyh, we walked our dog, had black coffee, and said good morning to the people who stayed at the venue with us,” she says.
Now, it was time for hair and makeup. While she was getting glammed up, she had Black-owned McBride Sisters wine and champagne (which ties into The Black Experience theme) on deck with her mom and friends, had her besties help rework her vows, retried on every outfit (sis is very Type-A), took photos, and ended the early-celebration with prayer and meditation. It seems very non-Bridezilla, I said.
“Yeah, I was the most unbothered bride ever. Everyone was just so supportive. As entertainers, we go on red carpets all the time. We actually have a production company,” she explains. “The get-ready process was like a day at work, but with people we love the most. Being entertainers, we didn’t feel stressed at all, but my excitement was so high.”
Things moved quickly, and before she knew it, it was time to line up to walk down the aisle.
“Yeah, I was the most unbothered bride ever. Everyone was just so supportive. As entertainers, we go on red carpets all the time. We actually have a production company. The get-ready process was like a day at work, but with people we love the most. Being entertainers, we didn’t feel stressed at all, but my excitement was so high.”
KJ Smith and her bridal party
Photo by Stanley Babb/ Stanlo Photography
Since everything started with their grandmothers, the couple wanted to ensure they honored them and planned to keep an element of their wedding traditional. Although we’ve all seen the reception videos and photos online, you may have noticed visuals from the wedding itself are harder to find.
“We planned for it to be traditional, but we’re not like that, so we tried to create those moments. We jumped the broom and had a salt ceremony (where the bride and groom individually pour salt into a glass container, symbolizing their lives becoming one.) But honestly, still, nothing was traditional about it.”
She goes on to explain that her mom caught the holy ghost coming down the aisle, her glam team was on deck, and she became so nervous with excitement that she had an anxiety attack – something she struggled with for years, she explains tearfully. Her friends had to literally cheer her down the aisle because of how overwhelmed she felt until she eventually calmed down.
“Skyh was standing there with his hand on his heart; we have our own little language, and I could feel the support,” she shares.
It was surprising to hear all these emotional moments happened before the party we saw online. That is until she once again got into the backstory.
“As a Black woman actress, for so long, it was popular to be mysterious and secretive, but that’s not who I am or what I like. Plus, we both wanted to create an experience for everyone there. We are the people who always host family and friends,” she says. “Like for me, the first order of business was getting sandals for the women so they can dance all night long. We had oxtail, D'ussé, and a coffee and sativa lounge – which is part of Skyh and I’s lifestyle and routine. We wanted to bring them into our world.”
Skyh Black (L) and KJ Smith (R)
Photo by Stanley Babb/ Stanlo Photography
She went on to discuss the dance routine she did for her husband at the reception, which has taken over the internet. Apparently, that’s another thing that didn’t go according to plan. According to KJ, she had promised a performance at their joint bachelor/ bachelorette party, but her outfit got stolen from her car. So, Skyh ended up performing for her – complete with a strip tease. Still, she never forgot her promise to dance for him.
So, she hired her friend as a choreographer, learned the routine, made friends and family watch it endless times, and attended Beyoncé’s Renaissance show a few days before for a confidence boost. It ended up being a show to remember. But that wasn’t all the night offered. Lil Mo performed, and the guests received special goody bags featuring their favorite Black-owned products like journals, hair care, and more.
“We made sure everyone was taken care of all night. That kind of stuff makes us happy. I wanted everyone there to experience the joy and love I have for myself, my partner, and for them. I wanted them to feel full and whole, and they had the time of their lives,” she says.
But naturally, the internet is going to internet, and while there were countless people praising the event and applauding the newlyweds, some thought it was too over the top. I was curious to know her thoughts on some of the criticism.
“It’s cool. We did what we wanted to do. I’ve decided to share my world with people. Just how I went on social media platforms and found inspiration, I want people to do the same,” she explains. “I don’t think it's fair to my supporters not to give that out. There’s so much I wanna share with brides, specifically Black brides. I love that people are adding it to their Pinterest boards."
"I wanted everyone there to experience the joy and love I have for myself, my partner, and for them. I wanted them to feel full and whole, and they had the time of their lives."
Photo by Stanley Babb/ Stanlo Photography
“I’m happy with it because we did what we wanted to do. They can do what they wanna do. Don’t be cruel, though, because you will get blocked,” she said, laughing.
The more I spoke with her, the more her sense of freedom shined through. People are always going to have their opinions, but at the end of the day, it’s you who has to live your life, and it seems like the couple realizes that and embraces that power. She also stressed the importance of not living for others and the lessons life has taught her.
“I’ve been to countless weddings, and I’ve been in countless weddings. I’m a generally older bride. So when women in my demographic get married, and you and your husband are busy working people like us, you deserve to have the one you want to have,” she shares.
“This is what we wanted to do. Our loved ones love and support us. We did so much to honor them, but we also wanted to start our own tradition, legacy, and creation. I'm not going to be pulled back into ideas of the past when I’m trying to create a future with my partner. “
If you’d like to see more of the couple, you probably won’t have to wait long. Although no content is planned yet, she admits to being an oversharer. “Me being open and transparent about my experiences lets people know it’s okay to have flaws; it makes you human, and for many years, I didn’t believe that was okay. I had pressure to be perfect, and I’d crumble every time,” she explains to xoNecole.
Now, she owns her flaws and uses them as a superpower to connect with her community and feel and express her love.
“Some people give us [Skyh and KJ] a hard time because they say we just seem too perfect. I’m like, why is that a bad thing? I love the people I love. From my man to my mama, to my friends - unabashedly. We move through time and space how we want to move. If we did it another way, we’d let ourselves and our union down.”
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Feature image by Stanley Babb/ Stanlo Photography