Erykah Badu’s house, which opens onto White Rock Lake in Dallas, is surrounded by handmade wind chimes in silver and ash wood. Some dangle from clay cylinders and tin tree-like figures, one falls from a yin and yang shield. A pair of beat-up red-and-blue Converse hangs among them. “There is a nice gentle breeze that blows off the lake, and I can hear them singing all around the house,” Badu says over the phone from her kitchen, where she is cooking breakfast for her daughters—grits for Puma, 13, and oatmeal for Mars, 8. “I listen to the chimes when I fall asleep at night.”
It’s a heavenly vision only furthered by the fact that Badu, who clocks in a solid eight hours of sleep when not on the road, also ritually drapes herself in all white: Her hemp sheets, her eight pillows stuffed with lavender, her handmade knit blanket, her floor-length satin slip. “White makes me feel clean and pure, like I can think and dream,” she says, recalling her last reverie, about a mangy golden retriever who sat outside her doorstep, patiently waiting to be fed. “I think dogs represent friends, and since I am the closest companion and friend that I have, maybe it’s a reminder to do a little more self-nurturing because I always do so much for everybody else.”
Here, the iconic performer and mother of three, who is also a third-degree Reiki master and certified doula—the stack of books on her nightstand includes a lesson on muscle and kinesiology entitled The Body Says Yes, which she is reading for the two pregnant mothers she is currently assisting—opens up about her bedtime rituals, remedies, and what—or rather, who—keeps her up at night.
Are you a good sleeper?
Because I am a performance artist, during touring season my shows run a little late, so I get to bed as soon as I get to my hotel, around 1:30 or 2:00 a.m., and if I have a DJ set, it’s 3:00 or 4:00. So much of my circadian rhythm is off, but I still get a good six hours. But on a night when it’s fall and I’m home and I’m in my routine with my children, I get about 8 hours.
What is the last thing you do before bedtime?
I set my alarm for 6:30 a.m., even though I snooze twice, until 6:45 a.m.
What type of sheets do you sleep in?
I like all-white hemp sheets; they feel really soft and they’re relaxing. They have a subtle aromatherapy to them, and I like lavender in my pillows.
How many pillows do you have?
I have eight pillows surrounding me [when I sleep]. I love big knit blankets, too, which are handmade—not by me. I haven’t learned how to knit yet.
Pj’s or au naturel?
I sleep in a floor-length white slip. [I need] something very thin and sheer and close to the body, but still loose feeling. My kimono is my housecoat; I wear it all day and night if I don’t go anywhere. White makes me feel clean and pure, like I can think and dream.
Do you use blackout blinds?
Generally I wake up with the sun, but because I travel for a living, I often have the option of blacking everything out.
What is on your bedside table?
Let me go check. I have a lamp that has 20 necklaces draped over it, different beads and things that I’ve gotten over time. Either my children make them or they’re from my travels. There are crystals, waist beads . . . on that table as well there is a bottle of peppermint eucalyptus, which helps me to breath well; I put it under my tongue and it refreshes everything by inviting oxygen to my head. I have some salt crystals, an amethyst crystal, a quartz crystal, a glass water bottle with quartz crystals inside of it. I have olive oil that I put on my feet before bed—cooking for the body! There are some random pennies—it’s always good to have a metal around—and a stack of books. Every girl should go to bed with a good hardback. On the top is The Body Says Yes, which is a book about muscle and kinesiology. It’s kind of heavy reading, but right now I have two moms that I am doula-ing, and it’s very helpful to think about these things for them.
Is there a sound that helps you fall asleep?
Wind chimes. My house is surrounded by them on the outside, and I live on the lake, so there is a nice gentle breeze that blows and I can hear them singing all around the house. I fall asleep to chimes and wake up to the alarm. I even tried the “sweet chimes” alarm [on my phone] but I ignore it—it’s too sweet!
Do you remember your dreams?
Yes, I remember my dreams—I write them down, too. The last one I had was really weird. I dreamed I had neglected a golden retriever who was living outside in the backyard. I kept thinking, I have to go feed this dog, I have to go see to this dog, but I kept doing other things [instead]. When I got ready to leave my house, the dog met me on my front porch. He was really skinny and mangy and abused, kinda. He was sad but real forgiving. Dogs are loving no matter what, so he still loved me, but he wanted me to see that he wasn’t getting the nurturing he needed.
What do you think that dream means?
It could mean several things. It could mean that I should do more to nurture myself because I think [dogs] represent best friends and companions, and I am my closest companion and friend. I do so much for everybody else and I don’t mind, but the dream was a good reminder to do the same thing for myself. I don’t even have a dog.
What animals do you have?
My kids have a bird and a guinea pig, neither of which I approve of. I don’t believe animals should live like that, in cages, but they were both gifts.
What keeps you up at night?
The pig! I wake up in the middle of the night wondering whether I fed her. Does she need anything? Is she having a good life in the cage? The day they got her I was like, “No ma’am, No ma’am.” And then Mars goes ahead and names her Young Tonya. If she didn’t have that name, I wouldn’t have been attached to her like that. But it’s such a good rap name.