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 26-year-old receptionist wonders if she should be drinking lettuce water every night before bed.
A little about me:
Number of hours sleep you get each night: 7 hours (I track it using my FitBit)
Number of hours sleep you wish you got each night: 8-9 hours
Any officially diagnosed sleep-related problems: no, but I do have vivid nightmares
How much water you drink on average per day: 3 litres
How much exercise I do on average per week: 3-4 workouts a week
I get home from work at 6pm, change into my workout clothes, and go for a run. When I get back, I have a shower and then make veggie pizza for dinner, and I watch Love Island as I eat (obviously).
Afterwards, I make myself some lettuce water. This means steeping a handful of lettuce leaves for 10 minutes in boiling water, then drinking it – everyone on TikTok is doing it, because it apparently helps you sleep really well. Does it work? It definitely doesn’t taste good, but it’s become part of my bedtime routine now, and I think it’s working.
I head up to bed afterwards at 10.30pm and fall asleep quickly, but I have a lot of nightmares so it’s not exactly a great sleep.
I wake up with my alarm at 7am, feeling groggy. My FitBit says I woke up a few times in the night, but I don’t remember it. I have a bowl of overnight oats for breakfast, followed by a slice of peanut butter toast and a cup of green tea. Then, I walk to work (it takes about an hour rather than the usual 15 minutes in the car, so I only do this once a week or so) and it’s a busy day as ever.
I have an M&S chicken salad sandwich for lunch (and a sneaky Twirl bar), and drink a lot of herbal tea all day. We go out to the pub for a quick drink after work, which feels so nice and normal after everything that’s happened, and then I get a lift home from one of my colleagues.
When I’m home, I do a 15-minute HIIT workout before having a bowl of chilli and rice (with lots of cheese). It’s Love Island again, so I watch that before having my usual lettuce water and going to bed at 10.30pm. I have more nightmares, though – this time they wake me up, they’re that scary! I wish I knew what was causing them.
Again, I wake up at 7am, but hit snooze until 7.30am. Then, I head downstairs, have a smoothie and some toast, and get ready for the day ahead. I drive into work today, so I have a bit more time to myself in the morning. It’s always busy but it’s a birthday today, so we all have a proper lunch out together at Wagamama (and there’s birthday cake when we get back, too).
When I get home, I go for a run before making myself a bowl of soup for dinner. After I’ve showered, it’s another night of Love Island (sorry, I’m so predictable!) and lettuce water, before heading to bed at 11pm.
I have more nightmares, but they don’t wake me up this time as they’re not scary-scary – just unsettling.
I wake up at 7am, hop out of bed and get myself breakfast quickly (just bog-standard cereal today, I’m afraid). Then, I down some water, get ready, and walk into work. It rains, which is annoying, so I wind up drenched and feeling a bit sorry for myself all day.
At lunch, I treat myself to a cheese toastie, as well as a hot frothy coffee and a chocolate bar. I also buy an umbrella, which I use when walking home.
To warm up, I have a bubble bath before dinner, which is a bowl of cheesy pasta and vegetables. Then, you guessed it, it’s Love Island, lettuce water, and bed by 10.30pm.
No nightmares tonight, which surprises me. I ate a lot of cheese, after all!
I wake up at 7am feeling pretty good. I have eggs on toast for breakfast, get ready for work, then drive in (although regret it when parking turns out to be a nightmare!).
Lunch today is a salad, as I’m out tonight, and I clock off at 4pm as it’s Friday-finish. Yay!
I drive over to my friend’s after work, and we order pizzas and drink wine and watch Love Island together. We stay up late chatting, then I crash out on her sofa. Again, there are no nightmares, but I feel like I don’t sleep as deeply as usual – maybe it’s because I missed my lettuce water?
So, what does it all mean? A sleep expert offers her thoughts
Dr Nerina Ramlakhan, sleep expert and professional physiologist, says: “You have some fabulous routines and habits – including your Love Island obsession! I’m serious; it’s important that we go to bed feeling safe and secure emotionally as this promotes better sleep, and watching something you really enjoy can help to achieve this.
“That being said, you suffer regularly from nightmares, so it’s important that you reduce the stimulation levels before you go to bed so as to calm your nervous system. Do you scroll a lot before bedtime? Or use your phone at all? If so, please don’t; you want to try and give yourself at least an hour of scroll-free time before your head hits the pillow.”
Dr Nerina continues: “With regards to your lettuce routine… well, lettuce – usually in the wild form and in large amounts – has been proven to increase the sleep duration of mice.
“If you’re going to do it, though, be sure to do it right; opt for Romaine lettuce, which has a higher lactucin content – a compound that is part of the larger compound lactucarium, which has sedative properties – compared to other lettuce varieties. Of course, what works for mice doesn’t necessarily work for humans, but this seems to be a ritual that’s working for you, and it won’t do you any harm at all. I say, keep it up!”
Dr Nerina finishes: “I would ask that you please stay off the sleep measurement for a bit – perhaps cut it down to at least every other night – as this can cause more anxiety about your sleep and it’s not always accurate anyway.
“And finally, albeit most importantly, have you sought any professional help for your nightmares? You’re having them so frequently and you might benefit from some professional counselling and support to unpick the cause and help you to sleep more restoratively.
“I wish you all the best with everything.”
If you would like to take part in Stylist’s Sleep Diaries, please email us at email@example.com with ‘SLEEP DIARIES’ as the subject. We look forward to hearing from you.
Lead image design: Ami O’Callaghan
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.