Whether we are escaping the mundanity of our restricted lives or the messiness of our social media feeds, a woman’s nighttime routine has become a much-needed tool to disconnect and relax. In this series “How I Wind Down…”, we speak to a lot of different women about how they prepare for a restful evening.

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“[A] study found that beneficial gut microbes may also help to protect us from the effects of stress—which as we know, contributes to poor sleep,” Carla Oates, founder of The Beauty Chef tells GRAZIA.

In a special edition of How I Wind Down, we spoke to the gut health expert on how our microbiome contributes to our night time routine and why an unhealthy gut might be affecting our precious hours of shut-eye. Oates founded The Beauty Chef in 2009 after healing her family’s skin issues where she learned that the secret to good skin (and now sleep) begins with a healthy gut.

You may already be aware of her cult ingestible beauty Glow Powder which has inspired a whole range of supplement products aimed at a better gut. As the country reopen just in time for the holiday season, stress, anxiety and burnout (as made apparent by Bella Hadid) are running rife. And this can affect how we sleep more than just overthinking at 2am.

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“Recent research has shown that losing sleep may have a negative effect on the health and diversity of the microbes residing in our gut,” she says. “Given that microbial diversity is one of the key indicators for good health, a lack of sleep could be costly. Other studies suggest that our gut microbes may actually influence how well we sleep, too. For instance, it has been discovered that our gut microbes have their own internal clocks or circadian rhythms and these rhythms appear to have an effect on the sleep-wake cycles of their human hosts.”

Below we ask Oates how she winds down for the best sleep possible.

GRAZIA: Can you describe your night-time beauty routine?

“My beauty regime is very simple. I don’t wear a lot of makeup however I’ve always looked after my skin, both by nurturing my gut with nutritious whole foods and fermented foods, as well as being mindful of the products I use on my face. I ensure the brands I buy have natural, pure and efficacious ingredients and are not mixed with harmful chemicals that will disrupt your skin’s natural microbiome.

“Each evening I cleanse my skin with a homemade oil concoction, followed by a swipe of the Probiotic Skin Refiner and then Beauty Fix Balm around my eyes, fine lines and lip area to hydrate and protect. I then apply a face oil and some moisturiser.”

How do you wind down after a busy day?

“Being the CEO of a growing company, it can be easy to fall into the trap of working long hours and not taking breaks. To negate some of the screen time, I take my dog Wolfie to the park once I’ve finished for the day.

“Cooking is one of my favourite things to do so after work I get in the kitchen. I love combining the joy of cooking with the science of nutrition, so when it comes to my recipes, both gut health and flavour are always top of mind. Depending on what’s in season, dinner could be anything from a salad with veggies and protein, or a piece of grilled or steamed fish with baked sweet potato and sauerkraut, a slow roast, a warming curry or a slow-cooked soup or stew with lots of veggies, herbs, spices and bone broth. My number one rule with all meals is to always have more veggies than meat on my plate.

“Then, after dinner, I do my best to wind down and switch off from the day by putting down my phone and enjoying time with my family.”

How do you decorate your space to assist in falling asleep?

“I think a home should be comfortable and nurturing so for me, our home is filled with well-designed and purposeful pieces as well as lots of texture and greenery. I wouldn’t necessarily describe our home as minimal, but everything has its purpose and I am drawn to natural fabrics, lots of natural light and a neutral colour palette, so everything feels inviting and calm.”

What time do you go to sleep?

“I go to sleep generally around 9:30 pm. Sometimes later if I become hooked on a Netflix series!”

Do you plan the next day’s look the night before or in the morning? If so, what’s your go-to look for an easy morning the next day?

“I generally decide what I’m going to wear based on how I’m feeling that day. I’m definitely drawn to natural materials that feel good on my skin and are made well and shaped well. I like investment pieces that will last a long time. I also like to wear clothes that I find beautiful, whether that is their material, their shape, their pattern or colour and have something a little different about them. I used to wear a lot of colour when I was younger, and then evolved to more tonal colours. I am finding myself more and more drawn to colour as I get older–which I am really enjoying and embracing.”

Now that we’ve opened up after a long three-plus months, how do you personally combat anxiety of the uncertain?

“Covid has been a challenging time and there is a lot of uncertainty. Balancing all of the facets in my life is something I am constantly working on, but in the past 18 months, it has really been a focus. While success in your career is rewarding, at the end of the day love, family and friendships sustain. Nurturing good relationships and a healthy, supportive community is very important for the heart and the soul, as well as the planet. I try and take time to ensure I am present with my loved ones as much as I am at work. Being mindful and strict with my diary around time with friends and family, as well as time for exercise and healthy meal planning, is important. Practising gratitude helps me stay in the moment.”