I Tried Clean Sleeping For A Week & I’ve Never Been More Tired

Photographed by Eylul Aslan.
There’s a new wellness trend: clean sleeping. You might have heard of it through Gwyneth Paltrow’s book, Clean Beauty. Or maybe you read one of the thousands of articles making fun of Gwyneth Paltrow's new book, Clean Beauty. Basically, it's sleeping but more of it, with a few weird pre-bed rituals. I know a lot of people find GP patronising, or think she's just finding ways to sell us back basic human functions – only with a lot of expensive products attached – but I once made citrus chicken with capers from a recipe I found on her lifestyle site GOOP, and everyone I’ve fed it to loves it. So maybe GP just wants me to live my best life? I decided to spend a week clean sleeping to find out.
A Friday in January is the best time to get an early night because you’re skint, nobody’s drinking, everyone wants to stay inside and you can wear 23 layers of clothes without judgement. Gwyneth’s first recommendation is to buy a copper-infused pillowcase, as “fine strands of copper oxide could help to prevent the formation of, and even reduce, wrinkles”. But the one she recommends costs £50 and lying in bed thinking ‘Why did I spend an entire week’s food budget on a pillowcase?’ isn’t exactly conducive to a good night’s sleep, so I make do with a freshly washed M&S one, infused with whatever laundry detergent was on offer in Sainsbury's last week. Gwyneth’s book also suggests that I meditate before bed, but I’ve failed to research how to actually do it. Gwyneth’s OTHER rule is no phones or tablets for an hour before you fall asleep, so I lie in bed and meditate for an hour on all the ways a hen weekend I’m planning could go wrong, fall asleep with the light on, have a weird sexy dream about The Only Way Is Essex sleazeball Mark Wright and wake up mortified and tired. That’s not clean sleeping, is it?
Another clean sleeping rule? No alcohol before bed. Which is probably fine if you’re living in sunny LA and your A-list mates meet up over chia seed smoothies and personal training sessions. But put Gwyneth in dark, rainy south London, sit her in a cosy pub with a friend she hasn’t seen in six weeks who’s having a dating crisis and she’d sink three red wines without even thinking about it, right? Obviously this isn’t what I did. No. I was tucked up in bed, clean sleeping. Of course.
I wake up feeling fresh as six-day-old dogs**t, and looking about as good. But at least I’ve finally followed one of GP’s key rules: 10 hours sleep! In the book, she recommends “at least seven or eight hours of good, quality sleep – and ideally even 10.” I lie in bed scrolling through Instagram for another hour, just to be sure I’ve been horizontal long enough.
That night, I get to bed early. “Keep a pot of sweet-smelling, thickly-textured moisturising cream by your bed and, before you turn off the light, give your feet a good three-minute massage”, the book instructs, so I do. Honestly, it is SO hard to massage your own feet and three minutes is a long time. When I’m done, I want to wash my hands, but I can’t stand up on the carpet because of all the moisturiser. My boyfriend refuses to carry me to the bathroom. I’m basically trapped on my bed, eventually sliding into flip-flops and spoiling any relaxed feeling I had. I wake up at 5am to worry about not getting enough sleep. I am nailing this.
Determined to sleep for 10 hours, and with my alarm set for 6am, I have exactly one hour between getting home from work at 7pm, and getting into bed. All I have to do is make my dinner, iron the pile of clothes threatening to take over my flat and get into bed as soon as possible. I can do this! Er, until a friend calls me and I get caught up talking for 45 minutes. My boyfriend, tired of hearing me say the phrase “Well, no, she’s the one who should apologise” and conscious of my time limit, ends up doing the ironing and making the dinner I’d promised to cook while I repeatedly mouth “Sorry!” at him. I have turned my boyfriend into household staff so I can sleep cleanly. Is this what you wanted, GP?
“Sleep plays such a powerful role in determining your appetite and energy levels that I believe it should be your first priority – even before you think about your diet”, says the book, which I take as an endorsement of tonight’s dinner: two glasses of rosé and a bowl of chips in the pub, before I rush home, get into bed and lie awake panicking about how tired I’ll be on only eight hours sleep. Or seven hours sleep. Or six hours sleep...
I wake up shattered, which is perfect as my workday starts at 8am and is scheduled to finish around 12.30am. Ironically, this is the day of my week that most resembles what I imagine GP’s days look like: I get a massage at my desk (a big treat for me, probably an everyday thing for her), then I attend a TV awards ceremony for work (I expect GP gets less excited when she spots Love Island cast members but, to be honest, that’s her loss). When I finally get to bed at 1.50am, I think I do actually sleep better for avoiding alcohol, not looking at my phone for an hour before bed and that massage. Is this clean sleeping? Have I cracked it?
No. I wake up so tired and furious that when my boyfriend tries to speak to me, I hiss like a snake and hide under the covers until he nervously offers me a second coffee. On the way to work, I silently fume at the other commuters, although nobody can see how angry I am because I’m wearing so much makeup, my face looks like Oliver Cromwell’s death mask. “How’s the clean sleeping going?” a friend WhatsApps. “Get f**ked”, I graciously reply.
At 6.01pm, I’m out of the door; by 6.47pm, I’m in my pyjamas, eating dinner. I change my bedcovers (GP doesn’t really specify this, but it just feels right), put my phone away from the bed, breathe deeply, turn the lights out and try to relax. Then… just one, small look at my phone. I’ll just quickly check my Instagram, then I’ll put it down. 20 minutes later, I’m caught up watching an extremely awkward live stream of Calvin Harris telling fans a long story about an EDM DJ I’ve never heard of, and taking questions about his beard. What is WRONG WITH ME? Gwyneth would never do this!
I’m knackered. I can only conclude that Gwynnie spent some of that Iron Man money on buying extra hours for her day, because there is no way she’s writing books, acting in films, giving herself foot massages, not looking at any screens for an hour before bed and still managing to get 10 hours sleep a night. She must be so behind on TV! When does she go to the gym? When does she have sex? Does she even see her friends? Has she turned her boyfriend into glorified domestic staff? Doesn’t she ever lie in bed and just have to google something right then and there? Is this just another way to tell women they’re doing something wrong (that they’ve been doing right for years)? In conclusion, I’ve been clean sleeping all week, yet I’ve never been so tired. If anyone wants to buy me a special copper oxide-infused pillowcase, though, please do, because I look 10 years older than I did last Friday.

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