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“My partner comes to bed after me – how can I stop them disrupting my sleep?” 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 40-year-old marketing manager wonders how she can stop her husband waking her up in the middle of the night.

A little about me:

Age: 40

Occupation: marketing manager

Number of hours sleep you get each night: 6 hours

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

How much water do you drink on average per week: 1 litre a day

How much exercise do you do on average per week: lots of walks

Day 1

My alarm goes off at 7am, and I hit snooze twice before showering, grabbing a cereal bar, and going to work. Lunch is a sandwich and fruit at 12pm, which I have after walking around the local park, but I have a few biscuits with my tea later.

I get home at 7pm, watch a lot of Netflix, and eat some leftover pizza. I also chat to a pal on the phone.

I head to bed at 10.30pm, but it takes me ages to fall asleep. I lie there looking at the ceiling and trying to slow my breathing, but when I look at the clock it’s 11.45pm and I’m still not asleep.

Eventually, I fall asleep. No dreams tonight. 

A pizza
“I get home at 7pm, watch a lot of Netflix, and eat some leftover pizza.”

Day 2

I try to get up quickly today when my alarm goes off at 7am; I have a shower, listen to Radio 4 as I eat toast, then head to work. 

Again, it’s busy, but I make sure to do a lunchtime power walk (while drinking a smoothie and eating a KitKat), and I also do a ‘walk and talk’ meeting with a colleague, too.

When I get home at 7pm, I have some cheese on toast, a yoghurt, and a lot of grapes. My husband is home so we watch TV together for a bit, and then I head upstairs to do a Zoom with my mum. She’s got a lot to tell me, so it goes on for a while. 

I head to bed at 11pm and again it takes me ages to fall asleep. My husband is still awake downstairs which doesn’t help as I keep thinking he’s going to wake me up when he eventually comes to bed.

I fall asleep well after midnight. And, yes, he wakes me when he gets into bed at 2am. 

Day 3

I hit snooze at least five times at 7am, then rush out the door without showering or having a proper breakfast. I do grab a Starbucks coffee and a pastry before getting to the office though.

It’s a long day, probably because I’m tired, and I end up splurging at lunch on a big bowl of pasta salad. I also attend some more walking meetings.

I get home at 7pm, make dinner for me and my husband (fish pie) and we eat it in front of the TV. Again, he stays up when I go to bed.

It takes me a long time to fall asleep again. I wish there was a trick to it. He wakes me up around 2am, again. Ugh. 

An alarm clock
“I hit snooze at least five times at 7am, then rush out the door without showering or having a proper breakfast.”

Day 4

I snooze my alarm too long and have to skip my shower (don’t tell anyone). I do a Starbucks breakfast again on the way to work. 

It’s busy at work, but I make sure to have a walk at lunch and a salad. And lots of walking meetings.

I go out with a friend after work for dinner (we go for Italian and wine) and I get home late. My husband is out so I have the house to myself, and I have a nice hot bath before bed.

It takes me ages to fall asleep again. Luckily, though, he crashes at a friend’s house so when I do nod off he doesn’t barge in and wake me up again. 

Day 5

I wake up at 7am and get up with my alarm. I have a nice leisurely breakfast (peanut butter and porridge), head to work, and start a little earlier than normal.

One of my team is leaving so we have a big lunch and cake to show them we’re going to miss them. And, as it’s Friday, we all head to the pub for drinks.

I get home around 10pm, head to bed at 10.30pm, and lie awake for a really long time. My husband crashes in at 1am, but luckily I’m still up so he doesn’t disturb me. 

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

Dr Nerina Ramlakhan, sleep expert and professional physiologist, says: “You seem to be a sensitive sleeper, so you really need my 5 non-negotiables to help you optimize your sleep. Your morning and breakfast routines aren’t great – ideally you would get up earlier to take time to eat a good protein-rich breakfast which will set you up for the day and then for a good night’s sleep. 

“Sensitive sleepers tend to wake up at the slightest noises so it’s really not great for you that your partner is waking you up when he comes in. I suspect this is part of the reason why it takes you a while to fall asleep as you’re going to bed with some anxiety about when you’ll be woken. Can you lovingly negotiate with him about this explaining that it’s really not working for you? I recommend Gary Chapman’s brilliant book The Five Languages to see if you can negotiate with him to come to bed earlier.”

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

Dr Nerina continues: “A practical strategy might also be for you to have a fan or some form of white noise in the room so his coming in doesn’t wake you so much, and you really need to stop checking the time when he does join you as doing so will just bring you into full wakefulness. I also recommend you have the biggest bed you can fit in your bedroom along with a singly sprung mattress so his movements when he gets into bed don’t disturb you.

“Sharing your cave with another human being can be tricky and it can require loving communication and diplomacy – I wish you all the best of luck!”

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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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