Sleep Diaries: what impact does our diet and lifestyle really have on our sleep?

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

Posted by for Wellbeing

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.

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.

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 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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Kayleigh Dray

Kayleigh Dray is Stylist’s digital editor-at-large. Her specialist topics include comic books, films, TV and feminism. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends.

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