3 Morning Rituals Model and Self-Confessed 'Night Owl' Mahalia Handley Swears By
Welcome to Bedtime Stories, an interview series where we ask inspiring individuals to share their nighttime routine and sleep secrets – from the beauty products they can’t live without to the tricks they swear by when they’re too tired to function (no coffee needed). For this instalment, model and activist Mahalia Handley, shares her ultimate bedtime routine.
The fashion industry is one that has historically come under fire for its lack of representation. And while there is a significant amount of work that still needs to be done and inclusivity still isn't always present, models like Mahalia Handley are helping to create long-term change.
Mahalia is an international curve model who uses her platform to help minimise the feeling of not belonging by representing diversity and body positivity. She was named one of Afterpay Australian Fashion Week's 'Change Makers', a program that aims to honour and highlight the incredible individuals who are reshaping Australia’s fashion industry representation landscape and ignite an overall wider cultural shift via fashion.
As someone who suffers from PCOS and body dysmorphic disorder, Mahalia knows first hand the difficulties of dealing with health issues and the necessity of looking after yourself, which is why she takes her bedtime routine seriously. Her transparency about her struggles is inspiring and is ultimately helping others learn to be more confident in themselves.
Below, Bed Threads Journal spoke with Mahalia about how she switches off from her life as an influencer, organises herself before bed, and how she swears by a good set of pillowcases.
Mahalia wears our Turmeric Midi
Hi Mahalia! Welcome to Bedtime Stories. You have a powerful online presence – how are you able to mentally switch off from it when needed?
Honestly, it can be really hard to switch off! It would be a lie to say it's an easy task each night. Something that my therapist taught me recently is about that moment when you're laying down in bed trying to sleep and suddenly all these things come rushing to your head, tasks to do, things you forgot, memories you'd rather not recall. It all comes to you then because it's the only time you've actually slowed down for the day where you weren't thinking about immediate needs/wants and actions. So it’s the only time your mind has actually had to relax and process what YOU needed.
Before I actually go to sleep, during my wind down routine, I take 10 minutes to set aside and have that check-in with myself, compose a list of things to do for the next day and finish any quick and achievable things that can be done easily in a short time frame.
It really has helped me in being able to switch off and stay on track by not feeling so overwhelmed with forgotten tasks.
On the days where I'm having a lot more mental health issues or work struggles I turn to CBD gummies. They've been a blessing for me in turning off the parts of my brain that want to continue partying when I want to join club pillow.
What time do you go to bed? Walk us through your bedtime ritual.
I'm actually a night owl. I love to be awake at night and am often emailing people back with early AM timestamps! (sorry to my agents haha). There's something about being in my comfort zone but still awake till the early morning that feels settling and comfortable for me. The silence of such busy cities makes me feel like the night is mine.
Generally, I go through my nighttime skin routine and am precise about how I get to sleep. I make my bed every single morning and refuse to get back in it after it's been made, most likely because I'm very particular about my bottom sheets being messed up or my sleeping pillows being touched by worn day clothing.
I wear specific sleepwear to bed depending on my mood. I love to be in vibrant rich colours because I often try to see how many times I can get away with wearing my PJs for clothes in public and like to know that I could spring out of bed into action if need be just as easily as I can fall sleekly asleep.
I use a pillow spray and humidifier. I often set a limit on nighttime social media scrolling/reading and have a 5-minute meeting with myself prior to that space out time about what I did well for the day and write a list of things that need to be done for the next day. To get to sleep I usually meditate with sound bowls on Spotify and my phone goes onto do not disturb at 9.45pm.
I really struggle to sleep without the room being pitch black and must have an eye mask on!
What sleep or beauty products do you swear by?
Easy, my Alpha H: Vit A serum. I have PCOS so my skin can flare up a lot, so making sure I have a great serum and eye cream is important. I've tried so many intense retinols that didn't do the trick for me, but this one finally works. I also deeply favour the 'deep pillow talk spray' by This Works as well. The bottle lasts me so long as you only need a few spritzes each time as the scent is very thick and lush! I think a lot of my sleep routine is about organisation before I get into bed to assure a wind-down routine.
My bed has to be set right with clean sheets rotated each week (and pillowcases twice a week), clean room prepped for the next day, and water by my bed in a carafe set I ADORE by Maison Balzac. I put all my jewellery into a large mother of pearl shell from Paspaley pearls I purchased a few Christmas ago on the hand-painted table that I brought back from Paris at a vintage market. It's about the simplicity of well-curated 'things' around me that mean a lot.
I guess the only thing I won't go without every single night is good pillowcases. My friends tease me often about this habit, but due to the nature of my work I'm always travelling and I ALWAYS have a set of pillowcases that I favour with me for hotel beds.
What is your solution for those nights you simply can't nod off to sleep?
CBD Gummies. They have been a true lifesaver for me on nights when I know I have a busy day and fall into the catastrophic pattern of knowing I need to sleep but not being able to sleep. I did favour melatonin for a bit but found I was too drowsy the next day.
If you prefer the non-medicated route a trick I picked up from a psychologist is to simply get up, out of bed, go and get a glass of water, take a moment to observe, and then go to bed. Sometimes it's the trick of just doing something opposite to what you are trying to do the most that can shift your concentration into actions the body can follow.
What time does your alarm go off the next morning? Walk us through your morning routine.
I hate waking up to an alarm. I never set one unless I have to be up for a shoot the next morning. I naturally wake up between 9.15-9.30am most mornings. My phone is programmed to come off 'Do Not Disturb' mode from 9am and If I'm being quite real it's often a call from my agents trying to get in contact with their sleepy model that often wakes me up.
If I'm woken up too early from what my natural sleep rhythm is I'm one of the crankiest people existing on planet earth that day (it probably sounds bratty but it is what it is). I always hated getting up early since I was a kid. It drove my parents mad as a teenager, but they should have known I just LOVE to sleep. I sleep so hard that sometimes I wake up and want to sleep again. I really just adore waking up slowly in the morning and having that moment of softness in your bed with cool wind seeping through. I often try to stay in bed for as long as I can each morning.
I get asked a lot in interviews about when I feel sexiest and I expect they want me to say something about being in a dress at some fabulous event, but it's not. It's in that exact moment of waking up, with fresh sheets in a curated room I've created as a sleeping love letter to myself in comfortable and stylish pyjamas. It really truly is the moment I feel sexiest.
Before I get out of bed I always do three things; I make a mental list of 5 things I'm grateful for, I do my affirmations, and I check in with my body with breathing and meditative exercises. It only takes me about 6 minutes, but it's time for me and me alone.
Normally then it's medication, a glass of lemon water, 20-second bursts of cold water to the face to wake up, breakfast, and then I get into the gym clothes I've gotten ready the night beforehand and I drag myself to my PT while listening to my wake up playlist on Spotify.
What are three things (besides coffee) that help you when you're too tired to function.
I actually don't drink coffee because of my PCOS. I hate to say it but I am one of those people who feels the power of green juice. I know, I sound like a douche for saying it, but it's true. The green juice is a machine that is the way to my heart in the mornings.
- Cold water showers (or to the face) 15 seconds in, 15 out, for a minute or two.
- My wake up playlist 'Get up Gurl' (on Spotify).
- Honouring that if I'm too tired maybe I need to take 15 minutes out and check in with my body/mind or meditate to get stamina back.
What do you normally eat for breakfast to kickstart your day?
I guess this is a funny question to me because my breakfast is the same every single day, even if I go out to a cafe it's the same order. I like routine where I can have it as sometimes, due to work, I'm in different hotels in different countries or states.
I have two pieces of gluten-free seeded bread with dairy-free butter (I'm GF/DF) 3 eggs (currently going through a boiled egg phase but favour scrambled) with smashed avo, sesame seeds, chilli sauce, pepper, and a smoothie.
I normally try to stuff in as much green stuff as I can in my morning smoothie and add bananas, berries, coconut water, protein powder, Inositol, and an adrenal restorative + probiotic powder (from Nimbin Apothecary).
For more from Mahalia, follow her Instagram @mahaliafromaustralia