Wellbeing

“Could a lack of self-care be the cause of my tiredness?” – a sleep expert answers your questions

Welcome to Stylist’s Sleep Diaries, where we’re taking a deep-dive into one of the most important (and elusive) factors in our day-to-day lives: sleep. To help us understand more about it, we’re inviting women to track their bedtime routines over a five-day period – and filing these diaries to sleep expert Dr Nerina Ramlakhan for analysis.  

In this week’s Sleep Diaries, a 36-year-old hairdresser wonders why she feels tired all the time – despite prioritising her self-care and scheduling in several early nights.

A little about me:

  • Age: 36
  • Occupation: hairdresser and student
  • Number of hours sleep I get each night: 8
  • Number of hours sleep I wish I got each night: 10
  • Any officially diagnosed sleep-related problems: bruxism (excessive teeth grinding)
  • How much water I drink on average per day: I try to drink 2 to 3 bottles a day
  • How much exercise I do on average per week: not enough (usually around 1 hour) 

Day 1

Tonight, I enjoy dinner at Harvey Nichols with family, which means that I tuck into duck breast, potato gratin, and kale. I sip on sparkling water throughout.

I head home at 9:30pm, watch TV for an hour, and then make myself a green tea before bed (I’ve heard it does good things to your body as you sleep!).

Once I’ve drunk this, I brush my teeth, and get down to my skincare routine (a simple wash, tone and moisturise). And yes, I scroll through Instagram and Twitter in bed. 

I close my eyes at 10:45pm and am up at 9:15am the next morning, without relying on an alarm. My jaw is stiff due to bruxism, and the fact that I have also misplaced my bite guard. I’m tired, and tuck into a late breakfast/brunch, which consists of one egg, two hash browns, and half an avocado. 

Sleep Diaries: “I wake up at 9:15am without relying on an alarm.”
Sleep Diaries: “I wake up at 9:15am without relying on an alarm.”

Day 2

Tonight, I get the train to stay at my boyfriend’s place. Over a dinner of sliced potatoes, veg and burgers, I sip on three small glasses of rosé wine. Once we’re done, we start watching a film, but both of us are too tired to see it through, so find ourselves in bed for an early night at 8:40pm.

I do not have a good night’s sleep, as it feels like I am awake the whole night: I can hear the wind blowing and the gate slamming. When my alarm goes off at 6.45am, I wake up and start getting ready for work, but I feel very, very tired.

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Day 3

I start work at 9am and treat myself to a chocolate croissant for breakfast. The sugar is welcome, as I am very tired all day.

When I get home, I make myself a dinner of belly pork with roast potatoes, which I eat in front of the TV with two beers. After a bath, I’m in bed by 9.30pm, but can’t resist scrolling through my social media apps before going to sleep. 

Despite being really sleepy tonight, I find it hard to switch off. I finally close my eyes around 11pm.

Sleep Diaries: “I treat myself to a chocolate croissant for breakfast.”
Sleep Diaries: “I treat myself to a chocolate croissant for breakfast.”

Day 4

I’m lethargic all day, as stayed home today. I make myself a dinner of rice, broccoli, and fish, which I wash down with three bottles of beer and a large glass of red wine. 

Once I’ve eaten, I watch some Natural Born Killers, then hop in the bath. I’m in bed by 10:30pm, and fall asleep soon after.

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Day 5

Today I’m out shopping for most of the day with my son, so wind up having a late lunch: lamb kofte kebab, rice, and lots of sparkling water. 

Back home, I have two small glasses of red wine and two bottles of water. I skip dinner, and head to the gym at 8pm, where I do weights for an hour and a half. 

I’m home at 10.30pm, where I have one bottle of beer before I shower and head to bed. I’m asleep pretty quickly and sleep through the night. I wake up at 9:30am, feeling a little bit tired but mostly fine.

So, what does it all mean? A sleep expert offers her thoughts

Dr Nerina Ramlakhan, sleep expert and professional physiologist, says: “There is a lot going on here that could explain your fatigue, but the core issue is self-care. 

“While you don’t appear to be a bad sleeper as such, I suspect the quality of sleep is poor due to a possibly excessive alcohol intake. To help you understand what I mean by this, the NHS has published a number of recommended guidelines which can be found here.

“Essentially, though, studies have shown that alcohol can reduce the restorative effects of sleep.”

Ramlakhan adds: “I think your mind (and sleep pattern) would benefit from a more regular exercise routine. Just one hour of walking a day is a great start, and be sure to eat a healthy breakfast on a regular basis.

“Also, I worry that you are very hard on yourself and that the teeth grinding may be related to repressed emotions and/or stress. To help with this, I really think you need more emotional support. 

“Try to find someone you can genuinely offload with, set better boundaries with technology, and go a little easier on yourself.”

If you would like to take part in Stylist’s Sleep Diaries, please email us at digital.commissions@stylist.co.uk with ‘SLEEP DIARIES’ as the subject. We look forward to hearing from you.

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Dr Nerina Ramlakhan is a renowned physiologist and sleep expert and regularly hosts sleep programmes and workshops. She is the bestselling author of several books about sleep, including The Little Book of Sleep: The Art of Natural Sleep (Gaia, 2018).

Lead image design: Ami O’Callaghan

Images: Getty

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