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“Can a healthy morning routine help you sleep better?” A sleep expert reveals all

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 32-year-old designer wonders whether her relaxing morning routine could be helping her sleep better at night.

A little about me:

Age: 32

Occupation: designer

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

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

How much water do you drink on average per week: 14 litres

How much exercise do you do on average per week: good walks daily with light cardio workouts

Day 1

I wake up at 6:30am after having a dream about John Travolta asking me to water his plants. I make a coffee and do some painting to relax while waking up slowly – I do this daily as I like to have time to relax and start the day calmly.

At 10am I head out for a long walk across the coast with plenty of water and snacks in my bag to eat and drink along the way. I get back at about 5pm, feeling tired but great!

I then sit down with my partner to play a board game over a few ciders before eating dinner at 7pm. We then watch a movie and I head to bed at 11pm. 

A woman painting flowers in watercolour
“I make a coffee and do some painting to relax while waking up slowly – I do this daily as I like to have time to relax and start the day calmly.”

Day 2

I wake up at 6am, having woken twice in the night – once at 1am and then again at 5am. My back hurt from carrying my backpack on my walk the day before so I couldn’t get comfortable during my sleep.

When I get out of bed I paint for two hours with my usual cup of coffee, before having some toast for breakfast

Afterwards, I walk into town to chat with a client and give them an update on the project they’ve ordered over lunch. I then begin the long walk home.

When I get home, I finish up some work before watching TV with my partner. We have dinner at about 8pm before watching a movie and heading to bed at 11pm. 

Day 3     

I wake up at 6:30am after a good night’s sleep, and follow my usual routine of coffee, painting and toast. I also have two eggs.

My partner and I are going bodyboarding today so we leave at 11am to pick up the hire gear and get started. We bodyboard throughout the day with regular breaks to recover, as well as grabbing lunch by the sea.

We get home at 5:30pm feeling absolutely exhausted and tuck into our food. We stopped off at a fish and chips takeaway on the way back as neither of us could be bothered to cook, so we eat that and then decide to watch some TV before heading up to bed at 10pm. 

The sea
“We bodyboard throughout the day with regular breaks to recover, as well as grabbing lunch by the sea.”

Day 4

I had another good night’s sleep last night, and wake up at 6am. This morning I enjoy coffee, toast and grapefruit for breakfast, but don’t have time for painting. 

Instead, I catch up on the work that I missed from the day of bodyboarding yesterday, and continue doing that until 11am when I have an early lunch. I’ve also drunk about three cups of coffee by this point.

I continue working until about 4pm when I decide to go on a brisk walk. I walk for an hour before returning home at 5pm and settling in for the evening to cook dinner with my partner (we’re having fajitas). I head up to bed at 11pm. 

Day 5

I wake up at 6:30 today before enjoying my painting, coffee and breakfast as usual. I head out to work by 10:30am – I’m running 30 minutes late and feel a bit tired today.  

I’m attending a meeting with another client today and it’s a long drive to get there – I don’t mind long drives so I put on some music and enjoy the changing scenery.

I stop off at the shop on the way home to pick up some kitchen supplies, so I don’t get home until 7pm. I’m thoroughly exhausted at this point and need to get an early night as I’m working all weekend, so I head up to be around 10pm. 

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

Dr Nerina Ramlakhan, sleep expert and professional physiologist, says: “You have some great habits and seem to sleep well as a result, although you do want to get more sleep and seem to run your batteries down by the end of the week. Can you eat a little earlier and then go to bed slightly earlier at least a few nights a week?

“You mention two habits which I feel really help you to get the good sleep you’re getting. The first is your regular, daily walks by the sea. The fact that you live by the sea is an added bonus as sea air is renowned for helping us sleep better because it is full of negative ions which help us to take in more oxygen as we breathe and optimize levels of serotonin, the feel-good hormone. When we exercise, we produce the chemical adenosine which helps the sleep hormone melatonin to work more effectively.”

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

Dr Nerina continues: “Your second great habit is starting your day by painting and relaxing. The way we start our days can have a profound effect on the rhythm of the rest of the day and the way we sleep at night. Starting the day with stress and diving straight into our phones and inboxes is a recipe for poor sleep at night. 

“On the other hand, easing into the day by starting earlier and doing something that relaxes you such as meditation, journaling or yoga is the perfect set up for the day.”

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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 ‘SLEEP DIARIES’ as the subject. We look forward to hearing from you.

Lead image design: Ami O’Callaghan

Images: Getty

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Lauren Geall

As Stylist’s digital writer, Lauren Geall writes on topics including mental health, wellbeing and work. She’s also a big fan of houseplants and likes to dabble in film and TV from time-to-time.

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