How Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioner Elizabeth Cullen gets ready for bed

Elizabeth Cullen knows a thing or two about ancient healing therapies. Here, she tells Body+Soul how she preps for bed, her beauty routine and why screen time is a no-brainer if you want a good night’s sleep.

Hello and welcome to our new editorial series Bedtime Beauty Stories. It’s a space for talented individuals to share how they get ready for slumber, including ways to wind down, nighttime beauty rituals and go-to remedies for falling asleep. We begin with one of Australia’s most in-demand skin experts, Jocelyn Petroni, then natural beauty enthusiast Belinda Hughes.

In this edition, Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioner, acupuncturist and the woman behind The Dao Health, Elizabeth Cullen shares her nighttime rituals.

What’s the first thing you do to wind down before bed?

After a refreshing shower, I will reflect on my day and think of three things that I am appreciative of that happened during the day. I will usually reflect to myself with the concept of ‘rose, bud and thorn’. Rose representing something good, bud as something I am looking forward to and thorn as something which may not have gone to plan but taking what I can learn from that event or situation.

And the last thing you do before you go to sleep?

I like to apply magnesium spray to my feet and place lavender oil for it’s calming properties on my temples and acupressure points including my chest and behind my ears. Try Magnesium Oil Spray ($19.99, at Salt Lab) and Eco. Aroma Pure Lavender Essential Oil ($14, at Nourished Life).

Talk us through your nighttime beauty routine…

My night time routine varies throughout the month according to where I am in my menstrual cycle. Throughout my follicular phase of the cycle my pre-bed routine is rather low maintenance compared to the second half of my cycle of which I implement a more comprehensive routine to support a good quality night’s sleep due to being prone to a broken night’s sleep coming up to my period.

I support my body with Chinese Herbal Medicine and supplementation. After a licorice or chamomile and ginger tea, [we like: Tropeaka Sleep Herbal Infusion ($22, at Tropeaka)], I’ll cleanse my face. Then, I apply the Traditional Chinese Medicine technique of Gua Sha using a frozen Gua Sha tool on my face with jojoba oil. Not only is it relaxing on my skin – I massage my jaw, neck and shoulder muscles after the day that was, I also notice a considerable difference by practicing this technique two to three times a week for my complexion, moving fluid in my face and softening fine lines.
Mount Lai Gua Sha Facial Lifting Tool ($42, at Sephora).

I will use a frozen Jade Roller to complete my facial routine and if my skin is feeling dry and dehydrated, which is quite common in winter months, I will alternate jojoba oil with a hyaluronic serum. Try The Jojoba Company 100% Natural Australian Jojoba Oil ($14.99, at Catch) and The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2% ($12.90, at Adore Beauty).

After a toner and moisturiser, I apply tea tree oil to any blemishes that I am prone to throughout the Luteal phase of my cycle. In the second half of my cycle I am aware I need more rest and will go to bed earlier. Once hopping into bed I will read or listen to a meditation such as the teacher Sarah Blondin or a Yoga Nidra, before heading off to sleep.

What do you sleep on?

I sleep on a cotton pillow case which I like to alternate each night. Low maintenance here!

What’s your stance on technology before bed?

Screen time is limited from dinner as I like for the evenings to be a time of bonding and checking in about the day’s events . I limit social media although am not opposed to an episode of TV. I didn’t own a TV for a number of years so throughout COVID-19 I have had many seasons to catch up on! Balancing not bingeing on television is key here though and finding a healthy balance of watching one episode and then reading or meditating is what I find beneficial to support a good night’s sleep.

My phone must be on aeroplane mode before bed and I love to use the Bedtime setting on iPhone to know how much sleep I am going to be getting. I find this works like a parent saying “go to bed” and this keeps me accountable.

Do you have a preferred or go to late night snack?

I prefer an early meal, I would eat dinner at 5:30pm each night if it was possible! From a Chinese Medicine perspective it is important for the body to be allowed to digest food through the spleen and stomach before allowing the body to rest and go to sleep. I like to follow these guidelines and I avoid late night snacks as my body doesn’t like a full stomach before bed time.

What time do you usually hop into bed?

My body likes to go to bed at 9:30pm so usually I will hop into bed 10 minutes before bedtime.

What do you do it you can’t drift off or have trouble sleeping – do you have a go to fix?

Weekly acupuncture treatment supports my circadian sleep cycle, especially in the Luteal phase of the cycle. If I am compliant with my pre-bed routine I find this supports me to sleep. When I have trouble sleeping I will use breath work to settle me back into a state of sleep. If this isn’t effective I may read for 10 – 15 minutes or listen to a meditation. This supports my mind to come to a place of rest and helps to support a clear perspective in the middle of the night which I think is important as my grandfather would always say, “ Worries in life seem a lot worse in the middle of the night”.

By using these strategies I find my body is supported to go back to sleep if my mind is calm. Supplementation is another option although if I have been compliant with taking supplementation before going to bed this usually supports a peaceful nights sleep.

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