Jennifer Aniston on Her ‘Very Personal’ Meditation Practice

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Though Jennifer Aniston is an entertainment industry veteran, it’s only recently that she feels she’s paying enough attention to how her hectic work schedule is affecting her sleep — and how her sleep is affecting everything else in her life.

After dealing with her sluggishness and unbalancing her eating and exercise habits, Aniston tells SELF that she ultimately decided it was time to address the issue of sleep with her doctor. As part of a new campaign with Idorsia called Seize the Night & Day, she’s encouraging others to do the same. “We’re all getting older and we don’t want to just be exhausted,” Aniston tells SELF. So she developed a bedtime routine that sets her up for success: Before falling asleep, Aniston takes time to stretch, meditate, and pray, a worthwhile sequence of events.

Here, Aniston SELF goes through everything she does before bed — including the mistakes she made in her 20s, her “very personal” meditation practice, and a word she’d like to share with the entertainment industry about her grueling hours.

My ideal nighttime routine starts with all the screens going off.

My phone goes to the kitchen or the bathroom. I walk the dogs. I lock all doors. I really try to be in bed by eleven o’clock. I’ve just got back from working on a film if you don’t have the luxury of a routine because you could start Monday morning with a 4am wake up call. And then on Fridays – or as we call them, Fridays – you have a call time of 6pm and work until Saturday morning. It’s a bit destructive to the old body clock, to say the least. But when I have the luxury of sticking to my routine, that’s all.

If I have a Friday, I just try not to focus on it. I try to focus on my work and not even think about it: oh my god, it’s five in the morning. I’m trying to portray it as just a day’s work – which is a very different conversation that I’ll have in the entertainment industry. Over the years I’ve learned the importance of sleep and consistency is really key. Especially when we’re young, in our twenties, we pride ourselves on sleeping two hours, four hours, and we’re great. We emerge and leave the bed. And it’s only when the accumulation of that sleep deprivation starts to add up and you start to really feel the effects of it.

When you lose sleep during the week, you think, oh, I’m just going to sleep all weekend. But you can’t catch up on lost sleep. When we sleep, our body does all this repair work – on our cells, on our brain clarity, on our muscles, skin and hair – it affects everything. So I hit a wall and finally decided to do something about it.

I definitely didn’t wash my makeup off before.

There were nights I just didn’t wash my face or I was just like, oh I’m so tired. Let’s fall asleep on the couch. Falling asleep on the couch watching TV and waking up at 3am in my 20s wasn’t great. Now I wash my face. If I’m lucky, I get a hot bath, which really helps, and I usually do my meditation from there: I do stretches, I do yoga, and then I do a meditation and I just pray. Then I will sleep.

My meditation practice varies for me and is very personal.

If I only have five minutes for it, five minutes is fine. Usually it just calms my mind. Or sometimes I follow a meditation in an app. Sometimes it’s about writing a gratitude list. My meditations vary, but gratitude lists are really important I believe. I do them every week. We owe a lot.

I’m such a night owl. That’s half the problem.

And so it’s been a real effort for me to try to reverse that and go to bed at a set time every night when I’m able. And to relax – roll down the screens, walk the dogs, lock the doors, wash my face, do my meditations and just keep the consistency of it. I think it really, really, really helps.

When my sleep was at its worst, my diet was poor and my skin was terrible.

I just couldn’t think straight and my doctor was so helpful. Sleep is usually the last question on the list when you go to the doctor because everything else seems more important. And now it’s the first question on my list. Everything starts with sleep. When I haven’t slept properly, my exercise is crap and my diet is out the window. I’m just reducing the yield.

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