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“Is getting to sleep before midnight the key to feeling more rested?” A sleep expert answers your questions

Posted by for Sleep

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 presenting these diaries to sleep expert Dr Nerina Ramlakhan for analysis.  

In this week’s Sleep Diaries, a 31-year-old digital journalist questions whether going to bed before midnight is the secret to feeling more rested when she wakes up.

A LITTLE ABOUT ME:

Age: 31

Occupation: digital journalist

Number of hours sleep you get each night: 6-7 hours

Number of hours sleep you wish you got each night: 8+

Any officially diagnosed sleep-related problems: no

Do you grind your teeth/have nightmares: yes

How much water you drink on average per day: 1 and a half litres

How much exercise I do on average per week: currently none

DAY 1

Despite finishing at 5.30pm, I stay online finishing work until 6.30pm as I’m working from home and use the usual “commute time” to catch up on some work. I know I should use the time to exercise or go on a walk as I haven’t been outside but I’m struggling to get back into fitness (I used to workout regularly) after a health scare. 

When I log off, I have some water and lie on my bed, replying to WhatsApp messages and try to switch off from work mode. I realise an hour has passed and I drag myself into the shower, have dinner and settle to watch something on my laptop for an hour or so. Before I know it, it’s 11.30pm and I shut my laptop and go upstairs to do my skincare routine

When I get into bed, I can’t help but scroll through TikTok and Instagram, catching up on my friends’ content and also keeping an eye out for any stories for work. Time zooms by and it’s gone 1am. I put my phone away and sleep deeply. My alarm goes off and I snooze for as long as I can get away with. 

A woman scrolling on her phone in bed at night
“When I get into bed, I can’t help but scroll through TikTok and Instagram.”

DAY 2

I log off work at 5.30pm on the dot as I have dinner plans with a friend. I put on some make-up and they pick me up at 6pm. I eat lasagne and have a glass of red wine at our local pub before getting home at 9pm. 

I shower, get into my pyjamas and sit with my parents for a bit as I haven’t seen them all day. I feel quite tired and head up to my bedroom. I do my skincare routine and get into bed. 

Even though I know I should close my eyes, I reach for my phone and respond to WhatsApp messages as I didn’t get a chance to earlier. I also can’t help but scroll through social media. I feel quite anxious as I can see the time is getting late but carry on scrolling. I eventually go to sleep and wake up six hours later. My jaw is very sore from grinding my teeth all night.

DAY 3

It’s the weekend so I’m not working today. I don’t have any plans so after an evening shower and dinner, I watch a movie on Netflix with my headphones on. When it finishes, I come up to my bedroom and watch another movie with dimmed lighting. 

I do my skincare routine in bed and give myself a facial massage, focusing on my jaw to ease any tension and prevent teeth grinding. Even though I usually get through the week by psyching myself up for a weekend lie-in, it’s gone 2am and I quickly get into bed. I toss and turn and eventually have to turn the fan onto help me sleep. 

I don’t set an alarm and wake up naturally at 9am but, stubbornly, tell myself it’s the weekend and I can sleep longer so I set an alarm for 11am and go back to sleep.

A woman using a roller to massage her face
“I do my skincare routine in bed and give myself a facial massage, focusing on my jaw to ease any tension and prevent teeth grinding.”

DAY 4

I have a bad case of the Sunday Scaries and to ease my mind, I put on my favourite TV show and watch it while standing on my bed of nails mat. I usually feel tense all over and I find it really helps me to relax. I shower and have dinner, eating while watching TV. Then, I come upstairs, do my skincare routine and begin scrolling through social media to look for any stories I can cover at work the next day. 

I feel quite anxious and sad. My life has changed drastically during the pandemic and while it used to involve lots of fun plans and work events, everything now feels quite boring and repetitive. I find myself getting quite upset about the idea of heading into another week of the same routine and have some water. I don’t have the energy to look at my phone like I normally would and go to sleep.

DAY 5

It’s Monday and I had a stressful day at work – it took me a while to get settled in the morning after a rough night. I log off around 6pm and get straight into the shower, taking my time to use different oils and products to soothe my mind a bit. I get into comfortable clothes and eat dinner. 

At 8pm, I decide to start reorganising some of my clothes while Netflix plays on my laptop in the background. I finish at 10.30pm, do my skincare routine and get into bed.

I start scrolling through TikTok, looking at videos that my friends have sent to me. I put my phone down at midnight. Before the pandemic, it would’ve felt really late but somehow this feels like a good time to me – the past year has warped my perception of a decent bedtime. 

I’m exhausted and fall asleep quickly. I actually manage to get eight hours of sleep but somehow still feel tired in the morning.

SO, WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN? A SLEEP EXPERT OFFERS HER THOUGHTS

Dr Nerina Ramlakhan, sleep expert and professional physiologist, says:  “I really want to help you to get better sleep and to feel better in general, but you’ve got to commit to it – especially given your previous health scare. Getting that good rest and sleep before midnight is a vital element of my 5 non-negotiables methodology, and it is important for your continued healing, energy levels and general morale.

“I like your pre-sleep facial massage routine, as it’s so good for your teeth grinding, but then you go and undo all that good work by scrolling again! Are you motivated enough to get off your electronic devices earlier in the evening and aim for lights out around 10-10.30pm at least three or four times a week? 

“Yes, you do seem to sleep deeply, but I think you’ll feel so much better if you do: sleeping before midnight helps to ensure that you have enough daytime hours of light exposure to regulate your melatonin production, not to mention maintain your circadian rhythm, which will aid in restoration and boost your health in the long run.

Dr Nerina Ramlakhan Stylist's sleep expert
Sleep expert Dr Nerina Ramlakhan

Dr Nerina continues: “Better and more sleep will lead to better energy and it will help to kickstart your fitness habit again. And of course, this will help your mood and feelings about the current challenges we’re all going through in the world.

“Finally, I love that you have a bed of nails – I swear by mine. Can you lie on it during the night, too? They’re so good for your health!”

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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Lead image design: Ami O’Callaghan

Images: Getty/Dr Nerina Ramlakhan

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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.