Sleep is the foundation of self-care; when we get enough sleep, we often feel at least a little bit better, both physically and mentally. Yet there are an infinite number of ways that someone can go about it. We all have our routines, our quirks, our secrets and tricks, and we’re always looking for something that can make sleep better.
In our new series Sleeping With… SELF talks to successful people from different career paths, backgrounds, and stages of life to find out how they make sleep magic happen. First up: Rachel Brosnahan, star of the award-winning Amazon Prime show The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.
Miriam “Midge” Maisel, the titular protagonist of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, has a rather extreme nighttime routine. As demonstrated in the show’s pilot, she wakes herself up twice in the middle of the night for the sake of patriarchy and skin care: once to remove her makeup after her husband goes to sleep, and once to put it back on before he wakes up, so he’ll never see her barefaced.
But don’t be fooled—the pre-bed rituals of Rachel Brosnahan, the Primetime Emmy– and Golden Globe–winning actor who plays Midge, look quite different. For Brosnahan, having a routine that helps her sleep, and stay asleep, is the priority. “I’m not a great sleeper; sleeping is hard,” she tells SELF.
Brosnahan, who is also a Cetaphil spokesperson, is based in New York City, where she lives with her husband and her dogs, Nikki and Winston. She just finished producing and starring in the Amazon Studios film I’m Your Woman, to be released sometime in 2020. Later this month, she’ll head to Sundance for the premiere of Ironbark, in which she costars with Benedict Cumberbatch.
Maisel premiered its third season on December 6 and was renewed for a fourth season a week later. On a typical day when she’s shooting the Amazon Prime hit, Brosnahan is up at 4:15 a.m. and out the door by 4:45 a.m. She “desperately” tries to go to bed at nine. “Especially as you get really busy, these kinds of routines become more important,” she says. For Brosnahan, getting ready for bed includes an unorthodox skin-care routine, a good podcast, and spending time with her dogs. Read more on what it’s like to sleep with Brosnahan, below.
On her backward skin-care routine
I shower at night, rather than in the morning. If I’m taking a shower at night, which I almost always do, then I will wash my face in the shower with Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser. When I get out of the shower, I’ll use the Cetaphil Gentle Makeup Remover. I do this very backward—I know you’re supposed to take your makeup off before you wash your face, but I wait until it’s kind of all over my face, and then I take it off.
After, I’ll do the Cetaphil Purifying Clay Mask once or twice a week. Then I use the Vintner’s Daughter Active Botanical Serum to follow it. If I was wearing a ton of makeup, I’ll use a gentle glycolic serum as well—I like the Drunk Elephant one—and then I’ll use a simple moisturizer.
I don’t wash my hair every day. When I’m working on [Maisel], I wear a wig, and under the wig we usually put Olaplex in my hair so that it can just mask all day, and then I rinse it out at night. I try not to wash my hair every day, especially because I color treat it.
On her post-shower essentials
After I shower I’ll usually lie down with my dogs. I like to cuddle with my dogs at night—that’s kind of my consistent form of self-care. I have two dogs, and they’re not always allowed on the bed, but if they’re clean then they are. At some point I kick them off onto their own beds.
I like to do a quick stretch to wind down, especially when I’m working in a corset and high heels all day long. At the end of the day, my feet hurt so much. Sometimes I’ll step on a ball, or I’ll do some twisting in bed.
On the best way to face mask
When I do a face mask, I will either sit and lightly meditate—just sit with my thoughts—or listen to a podcast while I’m cuddling with my dogs. Recently I’ve been really into The Daily. I know I’m so late to the party on The Daily, but it’s new for me in the past couple of months. It lasts about the same time that it takes to do a face mask, so I actually time my face mask by [the podcast].
Sometimes I’ll learn my lines in bed if I have a big scene, either while I’m doing a mask or just as I’m lying there. I have, many times, fallen asleep with a script on my face, especially with Maisel. But I do often fall asleep learning lines, which I know isn’t the greatest because it keeps your mind moving—that it engages your brain right as you’re trying to slow it down. I find that sometimes, especially if it’s a very stressful week at work, I wake up in the middle of the night running lines.
On trying not to look at her phone
Once I’ve started my shower and skin-care routine, after that point, I don’t watch any kind of TV. I actually don’t have a TV in my house. I haven’t had one for seven years. I was grandfathered into a projector in my latest apartment—it came with it—and I’ve liked that because using it is a choice. If I want to watch something, I can get it down, but it’s not something that lives in the space all the time.
I don’t think I would ever have a TV in my bedroom. I try not to look at my phone late at night, but I feel like sometimes, in the process of thinking and reflecting, I’m like, “Oh, shit, I forgot to answer this email.” Or, “Oh, crap, I have to respond to that text message.” I do think it keeps me up, so I try not to do it. But I’m not very successful at that. I charge my phone overnight on the floor under my bedside table. I don’t want to be tempted to reach for it. I try not to check the time—[if I do] then I’m done, and I’m up thinking about how many hours I have left to sleep.
On the best tools for bad sleepers
I need to sleep with an eye mask. Extra light filters into my apartment, so I sleep with one of those silk ones. Depending on what’s going on in the neighborhood, sometimes I’ll sleep with earplugs in as well, or a noise machine.
It’s super simple, but I really love the Dohm White Noise Machine. It just has two settings; it’s not anything complicated. It’s just white noise on a high or a low setting so that if my husband is awake and doing things in the house or my dogs are moving around, I can still sleep. I love it, and I travel with it when I’m in strange hotel rooms or apartments. I’m not a great sleeper, in case you couldn’t tell.
On going commando
I alternate what I wear to sleep. Sometimes I wear pants and a T-shirt. I’ve been given some very beautiful silk pajamas, which I never thought I would like to sleep in but I’ve loved. But generally it’s just a T-shirt and stretchy pants. No socks, no underwear. Well, listen—we should be open about this stuff.
On being five minutes late, no matter what
When I’m not working I set one alarm or I wake up on my own, if I have the luxury. But when I’m working I set three alarms because I’m so afraid that I’m going to sleep through one or be late for work, even though it’s never happened. I always set three, and they’re 12 minutes apart.
I’m about five minutes late for things, no matter how much time I give myself. I could wake up five minutes before I need to walk out the door and I’d be five minutes late. I could wake up an hour before I need to leave and I’m five minutes late. I hate being late and I stress about it all the time. If anyone has any advice, it’s my New Year’s resolution every year.
Rachel Brosnahan’s Favorite Things
Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser, $10, Ulta
Cetaphil Gentle Makeup Remover, $5, Amazon
Cetaphil Purifying Clay Mask, $16, Amazon
Vintner’s Daughter Active Botanical Serum, $185, Nordstrom
Drunk Elephant Glycolic Resurfacing Night Serum, $90, Sephora
Olaplex Hair Perfector No. 3, $28, Amazon
Marpac Dohm Classic White Noise Sound Machine, $50, Amazon
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Originally Appeared on SELF