The actor, producer, and author on managing screen time for her kids and blasting guided meditations through every room of the house.
In our Sleeping With… series, we speak to people from different career paths, backgrounds, and stages of life to find out how they make sleep magic happen.
Gabrielle Union has spent the pandemic in her roost, hunkering down at home with her big, blended family. The actor, producer, and author, who was also our June cover star, lives in Los Angeles with her husband, former NBA star Dwayne Wade, their two-year-old daughter, Kaavia, and Union’s sister, who helps care for Kaavia. Union is also the stepmother to three kids from Wade’s previous relationships—Zaire, 18; Zaya, 13 (who photographed Union for our cover); and Xavier, 6—and has raised Dahveon, 18, Wade’s nephew, for the past 12 years. So one might imagine bedtime in the Union-Wade household is a big deal, to say the least. “We call it Operation Shut-It-Down,” Union tells SELF. “Sometimes, we call it Operation Shut-It-The-Fuck-Down.”
Here, Union—who recently partnered with Chase Sapphire to lead a much-needed guided meditation session for fans—walks us through her bedtime routine, including how she and Wade wind down separately; why they route meditation music on speakers throughout the house; and how both therapy and limiting social media are crucial to keeping her children at peace.
Operation Shut-It-Down starts around six o'clock when Kaav goes in for bath time.
That's kind of when the noise levels drop; everyone's moving in to prepare for the end of the day. By 6:30, Kaav is out. We don't mess with her schedule at all, no matter what happens. I think by the time she's asleep, everyone is just sort of exhausted, so we all retreat to our little corners. Zaya only gets her electronics until then, and then she has to turn them in. So she's playing video games or she's reading or she's looking at TikTok, and me and my husband retreat to our room.
I play my chill-out mix, which is a lot of '80s R&B.
It’s a lot of Phyllis Hyman, a lot of Anita Baker and Gregory Abbott, that kind of '80s R&B vibe. We might watch some TV. We're watching The Queen's Gambit right now and The Undoing, and then the candles will start to get lit and we retreat to our separate corners in our bedroom for the nighttime. I light my Dream candle from Harlem Candle Company. I light my palo santo, a little sage.
Then I start my evening beauty routine.
I'm not sure if you're familiar with this company called The Things We Do, which I'm obsessed with. I wash my face with the Glow Scrub Cleanser. Then there's this product called Do Over, which, no lie, it is a game changer. It's nuts. I got introduced to it over this quarantine when I felt like the lower part of my face was sliding off my body. One of my friends was like, “Oh, you got to try this Do Over.” It's a retinol, and it's everything. It doesn't leave me irritated, but I generally use it at night, not in the morning, a few times a week.
Then I go into the Pigment Remedy. I don't know if anyone else has had breakouts from where your mask is. You know, I'm not one to leave this alone. I'm always trying to pop them, which never works out because they leave dark marks, and so I use the Pigment Remedy to correct the dark marks, from me not being able to stop myself.
I use the Youthful Eye Jelly from The Things We Do, and the Black Currant Oil for Oil, which I use day and night, and it's everything. And then for my last one, [that I use] about probably the same amount of times I use the Do Over—a few times a week—I use the Liquid Lift Sleeping Mask. Holy shit, game changer. It's kind of like the Do Over—it changes the whole operation. It literally does what it says. It lifts your face. It's awesome. I was like, Is it a mask? How do I sleep in this mask? It's weird, but you literally do and it doesn't get on your pillowcase or anything. It's pretty amazing.
I've never taken more baths in my life than I have during this pandemic. One of the things that has just brought me a lot of joy is that Herbivore Coconut Milk Bath Soak. It's a non-negotiable.
Sometimes we'll put the guided meditations on throughout the house, or meditative music throughout the house.
We sort of force everyone to do it with us. We do a guided meditation or just a meditation. Some of my friends are like, “Girl, I don't have time. My household wakes up and it's chaos.” So one of the things that we've found, again, through trial and error—there is no right way of doing it—is [meditating] in the bathroom. It's the one place where you can go for five minutes, feet firmly on the ground, and listen to a meditation or meditate. It's a multiuse space.
Just give yourself that time to center yourself. For me, instead of looking at social media, because obviously I need my phone to get my guided meditation, I just go straight to my guided meditation—in the bathroom—and just have that time. Before you check and see that the murder hornets are making their way to your hometown, give yourself that space.
We're a big proponent of therapy in this house.
Whether that's me, or my husband, or Zaya, or my little sister, or all of us, we carve out time for therapy every week. Don't miss it. In some cases like me, a couple of weeks ago, I did four hours of therapy. I was overwhelmed and I had to just say, Cancel stuff. I don't feel like I can think, my brain is mush, and I feel overwhelmed, and I need to draw a different boundary this week. And I just upped my therapy.
We also stopped doing electronics.
It started with Zaya, because she would literally be up all night, like overnight, and be dragging during school, and it was just increasing her anxiety. Constantly looking at social media—between the FOMO and feeling like you're not doing a pandemic right, all of that—it was just increasing her anxiety. As parents, you're like, “You need to put your electronics down, you need to check those in so you can have peace.” And you realize, wait—do I need to check my electronics? So we started just putting them away. It's been a little different because of the election, where we put all of our phones in a drawer and then I'm sneaking down [to check it], you know, within reason. But just putting our phones away has greatly changed the sleep routine for all of us. And then when you wake up, don't reach right for the phone.
Written by Hannah Dylan Pasternak.
This article originally appeared on SELF US.