Sleep Diaries cover

“Can good self-care really improve your sleep?” 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 38-year-old psychologist learns about the benefits of taking time for self-care amid her busy schedule.

A little about me:

Age: 38

Occupation: psychologist

Number of hours sleep you get each night: 7 hours

Number of hours sleep you wish you got each night: 8-9 hours

Do you grind your teeth/have nightmares: I have a history of teeth grinding but it doesn’t seem to be a problem at the moment.

How much water do you drink on average per day: I drink several pints each day – in particular when I first get up and later in the evening. I try to stop an hour or so before bed so I don’t need to wee at night!

How much exercise do you do on average per week: I usually swim 3-4 times a week but work took over this week, so I didn’t get to go at all. 

Day 1

I worked until 5:15pm, drove home from the office (it’s about a 45-minute drive), picked my youngest up from nursery and then headed home for the evening.

The rest of the kids were already home with their Dad when I got there, so we had tea followed by a bath before they went to bed.

In the meantime, my other half cooked us sea bass with roasted new potatoes and green beans, which we ate around 8pm. We finished that up with a mini magnum and a few pieces of chocolate. I also drunk diet coke and green tea earlier that day – my coke at lunch was my last caffeinated drink.

After finishing dinner I jumped on my laptop in front of the TV for the rest of the evening to catch up with work.

My husband and I sleep in separate beds because my husband snores and hurls himself around – we’re both happy with this arrangement but do tend to swap around rooms so that can be a bit disorientating/annoying. 

So, after chilling on the sofa for a bit, I head up to bed and do some more work-related reading before doing some scrolling to ‘switch off’. I turn the lights out at 11pm.

I sleep through the night but when my alarm goes off at 6:20am I find it hard to get up, and end up snoozing it until 6:45am. I plan to get an earlier night tonight.

A woman snoozing her alarm
“I sleep through the night but when my alarm goes off at 6:20am I find it hard to get up, and end up snoozing it until 6:45am.”

Day 2

I’ve been good with my caffeine today – I only have two green teas, and have my last one at 2:30pm.

I have an earlier dinner tonight with the children around 6:15pm – we have grilled chicken, wholemeal pitta and some salad. I also graze on chocolate throughout the evening.

In my bid to get an earlier night I head up to bed at 10pm and switch my lights off at 10:30pm – I really need to start a new book to help me wind down before bed.

Again I sleep through the night and wake up with my alarm at 6:20am. I snooze it until 6:35am but have to get up then in order to avoid being late.

Day 3

I have a bit more caffeine today, including two green teas, a diet coke and some chocolate after dinner, which I’m pretty sure counts.

I don’t end up getting home until 8pm, either, as I stayed at the office late to try and avoid working in front of the TV all night.

I sit down for dinner with my husband about 8:30pm. We eat different things – I end up having a big plate of pasta with cheese and bacon (unfortunately it was too big and I didn’t manage to finish it). I was also supposed to have some salad on the side but wasn’t able to as it had gone wet and gross. 

We watch an hour of TV after we finish until around 10:20pm, before making lunch and heading straight to bed. It’s 11pm by the time I turn off the lights.

Day 4

I have my normal amount of caffeine today – two green teas, and one diet coke. My last caffeinated drink was my tea at around 2pm.

I get home from work about 6:45pm and end up having dinner after the kids’ bedtime around 8pm. I also have some chocolate but not loads tonight – only one or two pieces.

“I get home from work about 6:45pm and end up having dinner after the kids’ bedtime around 8pm. I also have some chocolate but not loads tonight – only one or two pieces.”

I watch an hour of TV before heading up to bed and switching the lights off about 11pm. I fall asleep straight away (within 10 minutes).

Friday is my WFH day so its the one day of the week I can get up the nicer side of 7am, but I wake up at 5:50am to hear my husband shouting at one of the children for being up too early, and had to go and deal with crying.

I managed to get back to bed and fall asleep, but wake up to my alarm feeling like I have a big of a hangover. This is a wider problem I have when I wake up to the children making noise or for a similar reason – it gets me thinking about burglars etc and I find it difficult to calm down and go back to sleep.

I can be very rational about it but I can feel my adrenalin pumping.

Day 5

I drink a coke and lunch and have some green tea around 4pm, but that’s the only caffeine I have all day.

Once I’m finished with work I relax with a few glasses of wine and some pizza, before heading to bed around 10:30pm.

I sleep very badly, however, because I’m feeling queasy. I think its a combination of the ultra-processed pizza and the hangover. As a result it takes me ages to get to sleep, and then I wake up at 1:30am feeling parched and needing the loo.

I have to go downstairs to get a glass of water, so I end up feeling properly awake. I get back to sleep but I’m woken by the children early at 6:15am. I send them back to bed and head back myself, and spend the next two hours on and off awake/asleep until 8:30am.

I have some serious hangxiety and am now seriously considering a dry month.

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

Dr Nerina Ramlakhan, sleep expert and professional physiologist, says: “You clearly have a lot of demands on your time and energy with a young family and transitioning back to the office again so there is lots going on here that needs to be taken into consideration. 

“Your workload is heavy, and you need to spend time catching up on work in the evenings and in bed too which isn’t ideal for your sleep. When you do sleep, you sometimes grind your teeth and often don’t find it restorative.

“To start with, some healthier boundaries with work are needed. Being a perfectionist often goes hand in hand with teeth grinding and I suspect this is what’s happening here. Ideally, you need to restart your exercise routine and tighten up the self-care routine, making sure you eat properly throughout the day.”

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

Dr Nerina continues: “Now that we’re transitioning to getting back ‘out there’, we need to think more about our self-care toolkits and looking after ourselves as this can be an onslaught on our now more sensitive and sensitized nervous systems

“I’m glad that you and your husband have developed a sleeping arrangement that works for you and you’re no longer measuring her sleep but optimal nutrition including less chocolate so soon to bedtime (sorry!) might help you to hit those more restorative depths of sleep that you need. And a bit earlier to bed at least three or four nights a week is a must.”

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If you would like to take part in Stylist’s Sleep Diaries, please email us at 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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