What ‘Extra Virgin’ Star Debi Mazar Does When She Can’t Sleep

·Deputy Editor
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Debi Mazar has suffered from insomnia since her 20s — but she’s found some strategies that help when she just can’t fall asleep. (Photo: Getty Images)

Actress Debi Mazar has never had an easy time sleeping.

It all started in her early 20s, when she first started acting, because she would sometimes have to film scenes in the middle of the night. Her sleep woes continued on when she became a mother, when she had to wake up early in the morning to tend to her babies’ needs, and then go to work during the day.

Even now, the 50-year-old Extra Virgin and Entourage star (who will also be starring in the upcoming TV Land series Younger) still struggles with insomnia when her sleep schedule gets out of whack with on-location filming.

While she still doesn’t sleep perfectly — she will often go to bed exhausted, but then wake up in the middle of the night — she has discovered a few strategies that help.

She’s learned to eat earlier and drink less alcohol — not so close to bedtime — and also cut back on caffeine, only enjoying it early in the day so that it has time to exit her system before it’s time to go to sleep. And when she finds herself waking up in the middle of the night, she relies on brain-calming strategies to get her relaxed again.

Related: This Sleep Tweak Could Help You Worry Less

“I will go, ‘Everything’s OK, nothing is going to change,’ and then I think of a story or a movie that is poetic and visual — something that’s calming,” she tells Yahoo Health. “I do this to calm myself down, to stop thinking about that insecure moment of ‘Did I say the wrong thing, or did I do the right thing, or did I do enough.’” 

Mazar has also established a consistent bedtime routine — what sleep experts say is a key to good sleep hygiene — that involves getting the kids to bed, washing her face, then putting away all her electronics. “I put everything on ‘do not disturb,” so I don’t get any bings unless it’s an emergency,” she says. Then she and her husband hang out and watch some TV, or give each other a massage or back scratch to wind down. She’s in bed by 10:30 or 11 p.m., and wakes up every morning at 6:20 a.m. to get the kids ready for school.

Mazar has also figured out how to turn her bedroom into a sleep-conducive environment. She leaves a pot of water on the radiator for moisture, and always cracks the window open for some fresh air, even in the winter (”I find I sleep better when I get fresh air,” she says). She also has an aromatherapy diffuser from Muji that she loves, which emits a low light that provides a relaxing atmosphere.

For Mazar, insomnia is something that she is still working to manage — and through the years, she’s realized better sleep requires an examination of all of her lifestyle habits. It’s about “regulating your diet, regulating your habits, and about making habits,” she says.

Related: What Chronic Insomnia Really Feels Like

That includes taking time to wind down at the end of the night — something that can be particularly hard for parents to do. “A lot of times we deny ourselves things that might be healthy for us to do, in terms of getting a better night’s sleep,” Mazar says. It’s easy to double-book yourself and overdo it.

"In general. for me, I try to keep the diet, the exercise balance, because you have your endorphins pumping,” she says. “To get some of that energy out, some of that stress out, that really is helpful.”

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