In our Sleeping With… bedtime routine series, we speak to people from different career paths, backgrounds, and stages of life to find out how they make sleep magic happen.
You might know Tallulah Willis from her superstar family (ahem, Bruce and Demi) and their matching pajamas. Or maybe you know her from her dog mom content, her candid posts on mental health, or her recently-launched clothing line, Wyllis. No matter her project, the 26-year-old designer has always put mental health awareness and advocacy at its forefront.
Willis’ goal in creating Wyllis was to make clothing that helps people feel safe. Her messaging is clear: Phone numbers for the National Suicide Prevention Hotline and National Alliance on Mental Illness Helpline are listed on every page of the Wyllis website.
After a few difficult years, Willis is now six years sober and finding her footing. She spent the early months of quarantine in Idaho with her sisters, their respective partners, her partner, and both of her parents. Now she’s back in Los Angeles, where she lives with her three dogs, Touchi, Guinevere, and Cowboy.
“Before I got sober, I thought my body was invincible,” Willis tells SELF. “I wouldn’t sleep. I wouldn’t really eat. I was just pouring substances in my body without thought.” Now, Willis says, “Sleep is huge. It’s my least favorite feeling to feel that sluggish, slow, tired feeling, because I’m such a go-getter. I just want to be able to do stuff and be productive.”
Here, Willis speaks about the bedtime routine she’s spent the last couple of years cultivating—including building her ideal bedroom and creating a routine while living with OCD and ADD.
I love routines, but keeping a routine is quite difficult for me.
It’s the same thing as people being like, “It’s amazing to write in your journal every day.” As much as I want to be someone who writes in their journal and meditates every day, goes on a hike every day, that’s not me and I’m not going to do it. For so long, I punished myself and got mad at myself because I wasn’t doing that. And when I just started allowing what worked for me to be okay and be enough, then I started to feel better. Particularly with my mental health, I know that having a routine would probably help. I’ve implemented or introduced some more grounding, rooting things, but my days are really sporadic.
I am a very, very empathetic person—a very sensitive person. I was told once that if you are that way, you need to be in water every day to wash the day out of you. So I pretty much take a bath every night if I can.
During particularly tough moments, it could be multiple baths a day. It’s really where I feel like I can pause. I have this candle from Diptyque called Essence of John Galliano. If I had just seen the name, I would have been like, I don’t know if I want to smell his skin. But I got it at a store, and I was just obsessed with the smell. So I always light my Essence of John Galliano candle.
The bath has to be piping hot. Like, I want my skin to burn a little bit. Then I get a big old thing of water and I put it next to the bath, and I have my candle going and I soak for a little bit. Sometimes I’ll read.
I just bought an orthopedic pillow for my bathtub, and it’s so ugly, but it’s so comfortable. So I do the soaking, and probably finish the entire big bottle of water. I’m really, really bad at drinking water, so I try to buy big canteens to remind me to drink. When I’m in the bath that’s when I’m like, okay, let’s get our water intake for the day.
Once that moment is done, I do a full Tata Harper face routine—a mask and then the Resurfacing Serum. Then, I use the Revitalizing Body Oil, or the Beautifying Face Oil.
Something that has been really difficult with my mental health and my OCD is I had clear skin my whole life and then developed adult acne about six years ago. I’ve been on this mission to figure it out. I have a lot of different skin products, and again, as with everything in my life, I haven’t found one routine that just works. I’m always trying different regimens and routines.
Recently I was gifted a bunch of Tata Harper products, and I think she’s amazing. They just nailed it on the packaging, because you feel sexy with that green bottle on your countertop. The body oil is one of the most stunning body oils I’ve ever used. And at first I was like, okay, I’ll just use a little dab, but now I’m like, you know what? I just need to give myself this. I do the oil on my arms, on my chest, and then on my upper body. Basically everything that’s sticking out of the water. Once that’s oiled, I lay back for a little more. Then I get out of the bath while it’s still full and warm, and I oil the rest of my body. Then I get back in the bath and I just sit all oiled, and then I get out of the bath and I pat my body until the water comes off, because I don’t want to get the oil off.
I don’t need to be bone dry because then I take this robe, which I got from my sisters. I bought three more of them—I’m obsessed. It’s from this company in the UK called An Indian Summer. They make these printed cotton robes, and I throw it on over my body.
I put the robe on, walk back to my room, and I don’t know why I do this—I’ve done it since I was like a little kid—I don’t mind getting in my bed a little wet from the bath.
I use my sheets as a towel sometimes, because I want to go from the water womb to my bed womb. So I get in bed really quickly and the robe acts as this conduit to submerge the oil in my body, so then it really sinks in.
I have this Neroli deodorant from a company called Living Libations. I put that on, even though I’m going to sleep, just to have the smell. It’s made out of essential oils and the smell really sets the tone for me.
Once I’m in bed, I have to remember to take my antidepressants because sometimes I forget.
After I had my biggest bout with recovery in my mental health, I started having a real aversion to watching television because for many years, all I did was watch television to disassociate. I’m hopeful it’ll shift, but the past year and a half, I really can’t watch TV before bed, which I usually would do.
So usually I’ll just go on my phone and begin an hour of scrolling on Etsy. I really like scrolling for whatever piece of furniture, art, linen towel, kitchen thing, whatever I’m needing. And then if I’m not needing anything to buy, I’ll sometimes look at puppies. It sounds so cheesy, but I do. I’m dog-obsessed. One of my weird hobbies is finding dogs for friends and being a canine matchmaker. My greatest joy in life is contacting a rescue or a breeder and basically chatting through the details to get someone a dog or cat or whatever animal. So I’m always doing that. I’ll check Petfinder and Adopt-a-Pet. And then once I’m done with that, I just curl in for the night.
I think there needs to be a balance and fluidity with everything. Like with food: Eat the good stuff, but if you want a pizza, I’ll get a pizza. You know what I mean? Being mindful and discerning—that’s how I try to live in general. And so there are moments where I have been like, I want to scroll. I want to see what other people are up to.
What I love about Instagram [are] the posts that give deeper insights into myself and my journey and my struggles. Particularly, I did some posts about my skin picking, and I posted a photo of my face torn to shit. I was just like, “This is where I’m at right now, guys. How are you doing?” And people just really, really responded. A lot of the feedback I got was like, “Wow, I have this too. I didn’t know other people did.” And that’s when I love [Instagram.]
I roughly go to bed anywhere from 10:45 to 11:45. And I wasn’t always that way.
I used to like watching TV until four in the morning, and now I’m like, I had a long day doing a bunch of things. I get tired from the day. If I don’t feel tired, I’ll usually drink a Dream Water. I start to feel a little snoozy and then I knock out.
Sleep is huge. It’s my least favorite feeling to feel that sluggish, slow, tired feeling, because I’m such a go-getter. I just want to be able to do stuff and be productive. I’m sober six years, and before I got sober, I thought my body was invincible. I wouldn’t sleep. I wouldn’t really eat. I was just pouring substances in my body without thought. We are fragile beings.
When I moved into my place, I was 23 and I had more space here than I had ever had, so setting it up was a very daunting project to undertake.
I got a bed and I got a TV set up, and that was it for a couple years. I bring that up because it was hugely indicative of my mental health. I was so disconnected from my own body and my own surroundings that I didn’t even notice or care—it didn’t bother me. I was just numbing out. I just lay on the mattress on the floor and watched TV.
A little more than a year and a half ago, around the time Wyllis started and around the time I really, really tackled my struggles with mental health, I really slowly shifted out of that place. It was like all of a sudden I had this burst of, “Wow, this is what I had been living in.”
I was always under the assumption that you have to spend a bunch of money on a bed. I had done that at one point, but after I got out of my “bleh” phase, I really didn’t want that bed anymore. I had it for five years. My dogs had peed on it a bunch of times. It was just time. And there was energy trapped in it from the hours and the days that I had just laid there. I was like, “I sleep on this every day. I don’t want to keep ruminating in that.”
I subscribe very hard to the energy that is kept in inanimate objects. So, I was like, “I need a new bed,” and I didn’t really want to drop the big bucks.
I went to Bed Bath & Beyond and I bought a three-inch cooling mattress topper, because I need a cloud bed. I just want to be in the womb of the bed. And then I went on some affordable Internet site and got a $200 mattress. I just put the topper on it and it’s incredible—I made my own gourmet bed for under $500.
There’s one episode of Sex and the City where Carrie and Miranda are making a bed. And Miranda’s like, “I figure if I can make my bed a place I really want to be, others will feel the same.” And it always stuck with me. So I started looking around because I wanted those super cozy linen sheets. I went on Etsy and I got a gorgeous set of apricot peach linens, and then I got a set of pink linens. The picture was starting to come together and I was like, all right, well, we’ve come this far, we can’t keep sleeping on the floor. I need a bed frame.
In early quarantine I needed an outlet. And so I was like, You know what? I am going to have a bed frame made. I would rather have one be exactly what I want, that I’ll have forever. So I contacted this woodsmith. I had this idea, I knew exactly what I wanted. I basically worked with him and designed a bed frame, and that took about like a month and a half to be completed. It’s hilarious because it’s massive.
And I want to be very clear: Safety and feeling good where you sleep is not determined by being able to buy the fancy sheets from Lithuania, or have a custom burl wood bed frame made. I’m not trying to say that you have to do all these fancy things in order to feel calm and happy. It’s whatever works for you. But I found that taking the time to do some research, to make those purchases that were intentional and that really reflect me helped my mental health.