Growing up, I was obsessed with my favorite pair of Barbie pajamas. They were soft, comfortable, came in a seriously cute shade of bubblegum pink — and they were an integral part of my unwinding ritual. Complete with an image of Barbie herself sporting a fluffy sleep mask, the cotton two-piece set consistently injected a sense of joy into my bedtime routine.
Perhaps that’s why, when I watched Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez show off her go-to matching pajama set on Instagram last night, her message instantly resonated with me. “Matching pajama sets are key to productivity,” she exclaimed, showing off her soft, grey flannels. “Putting on a pajama set is different from sweats and a tee… It’s a tactile and visual signal that you are in ‘off’ mode. Plus, the conscious decision to put it on helps you switch modes.”
A.O.C. claims she once thought having matching pajamas as an adult felt “corny,” but today, she swears by her bedtime ritual as a proven method for allowing her mind to separate from her busy workday. “Having a set ‘lounge’ uniform can help condition your brain to make a clear distinction between working and not working,” she continued. “Too many of us allow work and home life to blur into one another… which allows chronic stress to spill over a lot.”
The New York Congresswoman says her matching pajamas have done wonders for her well-being and productivity, and there is science behind having a consistent lounge uniform. “It’s healthy for us to establish rituals that we do at same time everyday,” Charles Schaeffer, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist and sleep restoration specialist, tells Thrive Global. “Ocasio-Cortez is highlighting a very smart take on sleep hygiene: creating a habit to signal the transition to between awake time and sleeping time.”
According to Schaeffer, specific “cooldown” rituals allow us to clear our minds from our busy days, and enter a new mindset that is specifically meant for relaxation and sleep. “Many people with insomnia or sleep deprivation find that rituals help them identify their sleep drive — the biochemical feeling of sleepiness that helps all people fall asleep consistently every night,” he explains. “Other rituals that have a similar effect include meditating, or listening to music.”
Plus, certain rituals can actually help us tap into our body’s natural rhythm — and the more consistent we are, the better. “The circadian clock seeks signals from the environment about whether it is time for sleep or being awake,” Courtney Bancroft, Psy.D., a sleep psychologist, tells Thrive. “By being ‘comfy,’ the circadian clock is getting one of these signals. Your brain recognizes the comfortable pajamas as a cue that bedtime is coming, and that can help to reinforce the behavior of sleep.”
Whether your unwinding ritual includes your favorite face mask, a phone call with a loved one, reading a chapter from a good book, or, yes, matching pajamas, it’s important to identify what helps you prioritize your self-care at the end of the day, and find what helps clear your mind before bed. “It doesn’t have to be fancy at all, but definitely make sure it’s soft and comfortable!” Ocasio-Cortez emphasizes.
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