Sleep Diaries cover

“Is intermittent recovery the key to feeling less tired throughout the day?” A sleep expert answers your questions

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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 35-year-old production manager finds out about the benefits of making rest part of her daily routine.

A little about me:

Age: 31

Occupation: TV production manager

Number of hours sleep you get each night: 6 hours

Number of hours sleep you wish you got each night: 8.5 hours

Any officially diagnosed sleep-related problems (insomnia/sleep apnea): I’m not officially diagnosed but I do sometimes suffer from insomnia  

Do you measure your sleep in some way (e.g. using your phone or wearable): No (used to but then became obsessed) 

How much water do you drink on average per day: 3 litres

How much caffeine do you drink on average per day: maximum 2 cups of freshly brewed coffee, both drunk before midday

How much exercise do you do on average per week: I go to the gym (weights) 3 times a week, swim or do a long run on the other 2 days and cycle to and from work 2 days a week (40 minutes each way)

Day 1

I wake up feeling exhausted as I got home from a trip to see a friend late last night, and the aforementioned trip was very boozy and foody. When my alarm goes off at 7am I skip the gym and make coffee to take on a 30-minute walk instead.

When I get home I make breakfast and log on to work at 9:30am. I do own a pair of screen glasses as I’m aware that sitting in front of a screen all day long isn’t healthy, but I never remember to wear them.

At lunch I take a break from my screen and tidy the flat. I’m feeling a bit blue today but I’m wondering if its the food and booze hangover.

After work I’m still feeling really tired, but I meet friends for cocktails and some dinner (I have a very garlicky chicken shish with rice and flatbread) before going to a comedy show at around 7pm. It’s good fun, but I end up drinking when I promised myself I wouldn’t, and get home at 11:30pm. I get into bed after midnight.

Cocktail
“After work I’m still feeling really tired, but I meet friends for cocktails and some dinner.”

Day 2

I wake up when my alarm goes off at 7:30am feeling really tired – I woke up at 2am and found it hard to get back to sleep. I blame the alcohol.

To help myself get going I have a coffee before heading out for an 8km run. It’s hard work but I feel better for doing it.

It’s a Saturday, so I meet my friend for a breakfast of egg burritos at 10:30am. I do a bit of shopping, head home and tidy my flat, as I have another friend staying over for the evening as we’re attending another friends’ birthday party.

I meet her at the pub for lunch before we head back to mine to get ready. I’m feeling very spaced out as we head out for the party, even though I’m having a great time catching up with her. 

At the party I have a couple of glasses of prosecco and some snacks of meat and cheese (as well as birthday cake), but its pretty tame compared to the night before.

We get home at around 11:30pm and chat while we get ready for bed. It’s gone midnight again once I eventually get in bed, and it takes me a long time to drift off. However, once I’m asleep I stay asleep for the most part – I only wake up a few times in the night and have some dreams that I don’t remember.

Day 3

Annoyingly I forgot to turn off my weekday alarm, so it goes off this morning at 6am. I turn it off and fall back asleep until 7:30am, before getting up and making my friend and I a breakfast of a poached egg, turkey bacon, grilled tomato and beans with coffee. We get ready, head out for a walk around Victoria Park, and indulge in another coffee and a pastry.

My friend leaves and I have just enough time to tidy my flat before my parents show up. I make them coffee but don’t have one as am already at my two a day limit, and we head out for lunch at Busaba. After we’re finished I decide to leave them to it and do the 25-minute walk home by myself so I can spend the rest of the afternoon relaxing.

I eat soup for dinner at 7pm, before running a bath and taking my make-up off while drinking a sleepy tea.

I’m in bed by 10pm and put my phone away – I try not to check the time once I’m in bed so I turn my lights off after what I think is about 30 minutes of reading. Again, it takes a while to drift off as I have lots of thoughts whizzing through my head.  

A bubble bath with feet ahead
“I eat soup for dinner at 7pm, before running a bath and taking my make-up off while drinking a sleepy tea.”

Day 4

I wake up when my alarm goes off at 6:10am and snooze it for 5 minutes. I then get up and go swimming. Once I’m back I’m starving so I make breakfast at 8:30am of leftovers in the fridge – 1 slice of rye bread with ¼ mashed avocado, 2 x turkey bacon rashers, 2 poached eggs, spinach, tomatoes and beetroot. 

I start the day feeling positive, but I make a huge mistake at work and then spend the rest of the day feeling stressed. I don’t have time to head out at lunch, so spend all day in my flat in front of the screen – which stresses me out even more! I do have time to cook a prawn courgette spaghetti for lunch, and make a chicken and quinoa stir fry for dinner. 

Snacks are carrots and hummus and yoghurt with protein powder and some chocolate that I’m not really hungry for but I eat anyway as a distraction.

I log off at 9pm and feel pretty wired, so I decide to drag myself out for a short walk before bed to get some fresh air. It does help, and I manage to get into bed for 10:30pm to read. It takes me a while to switch off as per usual, but I’m exhausted and somehow manage to sleep through.

Day 5

I wake up feeling really tired when my alarm goes off at 6:15am, but pop my gym stuff on anyway. I’m doing weights today – its an office day today so my cycle to and from the office will serve as my cardio! I also snack on half a slice of rye bread with peanut butter and half a banana whilst I’m getting ready.

Once I’m done at the gym I head to the office, where I devour two banana and almond muffins with yoghurt. I also head out to grab a skinny cappuccino.

Work is manic so I don’t really have too much time to look at my phone, but I manage to get out at lunch for a walk to the shops. When I get back I sit away from my desk chatting to colleagues while I eat my lunch of prawn spaghetti leftovers. My day is full of calls, so I feel like the day goes extremely quickly. 

Just before 7pm I log off, then cycle to Old Street to meet a friend for dinner. We order the tasting menu which is incredible – along with a glass of wine and a cocktail – but I have to order a mint tea with our dessert as I felt like I was going to explode. The 25-minute cycle back home is welcome as if it weren’t for that I’d have to roll back (or be carried). I take all of my make-up off and prep my food and snacks for my office day tomorrow.

I manage to get into bed for 11:30pm, which feels good. I read for ten minutes just to try and switch off, and it’s lights out. No surprises that it takes a while for my thoughts to settle before I eventually drift off. 

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

Dr Nerina Ramlakhan, sleep expert and professional physiologist, says: “What a busy and buzzy lifestyle you have! I’m loathed to tell you to cut back on your socializing (including alcohol) but you’re not really getting away with it as you’re often exhausted, not getting enough hours of sleep and, I suspect, not sleeping deeply enough. 

“At the moment you’re getting away with it as you’re at the age where you have physiology on your side but as you get older this pace of life could take its toll on your health.

“So, how can I help you decompress? Your exercise routine and nutrition are good and it’s great that you’re ensuring you’re getting enough protein to fuel your level of energy output but there’s something else that’s sorely needed – rest and recovery.” 

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

Dr Nerina continues: “You need to build intermittent recovery into her day – even stopping just for a few minutes to stop and breathe mindfully every hour or so will decompress the nervous system. In turn, this will ensure that you’re not getting to the end of the day feeling so wired. 

“Earlier nights are also needed at least 3 or 4 times a week – this means getting into bed around 10pm and lights out at latest 10.30pm. Clearly, you enjoy life to the full but you needs to ensure that it doesn’t burn you out.”

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If you would like to take part in Stylist’s Sleep Diaries, please email us at digital.commissions@stylist.co.uk with your name, age and any sleep problems you’re dealing with, using ‘SLEEP DIARIES’ as the subject. We look forward to hearing from you.

Lead image design: Ami O’Callaghan

Other images: Getty/Dr Nerina Ramlakhan

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Lauren Geall

As Stylist’s digital writer, Lauren Geall writes on topics including mental health, wellbeing and women’s issues. She’s also a big fan of houseplants and likes to dabble in film and TV from time-to-time. You can find her on Twitter at @laurenjanegeall.

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