Sleep Diaries: what impact does our diet and lifestyle really have on our sleep?

“How can I sleep when life is so busy I find it hard to switch off?” – 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 filing these diaries to sleep expert Dr Nerina Ramlakhan for analysis.  

In this week’s Sleep Diaries, a 28-year-old communications executive talks through their many hobbies and extracurricular activities. 

A little about me:

  • Age: 28
  • Occupation: Communications executive
  • Number of hours sleep I get each night: 8
  • Number of hours sleep I wish I got each night: 8
  • How much water I drink on average per day: 2 pints
  • How much exercise I do on average per week: 2.5 hours of HIIT/yoga

Day 1

Sunday evening, from 5.45pm through until 7pm, I record a podcast with my friend. Then, from 7 until 8om, I get ready for an online performance, which includes getting into costume, preparing props, and looking over the script. 

We’re performing from 8 until 9pm (an online murder mystery, as part of a troupe I perform twice weekly), and I eat dinner after this. Yes, it’s much later than usual, but I had a late lunch at 2pm. 

After dinner, I catch up with the Bake Off, and then got ready for bed, with lights being turned out at 11pm. I was quite anxious (Sunday night blues I think) but I was too tired to meditate so went straight to bed.

I didn’t wake up once, falling straight to sleep.

Sleep Diaries: “I catch up with the Bake Off, and then got ready for bed.”

Day 2

I wake up at 6.30am briefly as my partner says goodbye leaving for work. I then wake up properly at 7.30am, taking my time to wake up and then doing a 15 minute HIIT session. I usually do 20/25 minutes, but I feel particularly groggy. 

For breakfast I have a smoked salmon and halloumi bagel because I’m bougie. During the day, I sip on coffee and tea and a Diet Coke. I also go for a half hour walk at lunchtime to get some air. 

In the evening, my partner cooks dinner for us (pie, chips and vegetables) which we have with pints of water. I then watch The Addams Family and some RuPaul’s Drag Race to unwind. I go to bed at 10.30pm feeling a little anxious, but still get to sleep almost immediately. 

Day 3

I wake up at 6.30am as my partner leaves and then go back to sleep, waking up at about 8.30am. Instead of a workout, I walk half an hour to Starbucks where I have a breakfast of a tuna melt panini and a Pumpkin Spice Latte. 

I catch the bus back to my flat for work and then work in the kitchen all day. At lunchtime I go to the large Tescos and do a big shop, dragging my suitcase full of shopping back afterward. My lunch is a Quorn chicken toasted sandwich, which is much better than it sounds. 

Despite this, though, I snack through the day, which is unusual for me, having a biscuit and some of a Terry’s Chocolate Orange, which I am disgusted to find has much less chocolate than it used to. 

In the evening I make and eat ratatouille with a cheese & broccoli escalope. I write (creatively, for me) for two hours and then watch Bake Off: An Extra Slice with my partner before going to bed about 10.30pm. I feel calm and not particularly anxious and I sleep almost immediately. 

Day 4

I wake up at 6am and then again at 8am, but otherwise sleep fully. Awake, it takes me some time to get moving, because the mornings are darker now. 

Eventually, I manage to get up and do a 30-minute low impact workout before heading out to Wimbledon to meet my friend for co-working. 

During the day, I have two coffees and a Diet Coke and a pint or two of water (as well as cereal, toast, and a panini). 

At 6pm I perform an online murder mystery with my theatre troupe, and then tuck into a dinner of spicy prawns and rice.

Once we’ve eaten, we watch two episodes of I May Destroy You and then I watch a further episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race, ending at 10.15pm. I feel pretty calm and I then get ready for bed, falling asleep at about 10.30pm. 

Day 5

I sleep less thoroughly than the rest of the week, waking briefly at 3am and again at 6am. 

At 6am, I am awake, despite my attempts to sleep any further, and so I get up at 7am. Ugh. 

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

Dr Nerina Ramlakhan, sleep expert and professional physiologist, says: 

“You seem to have a nice lifestyle with some good fun elements too – the murder mystery theatre work sounds great!

“There are no obvious issues here but you could have more energy and get up and go if you cut back on the caffeine and increase your water intake. Are you having breakfast every morning? It’s not clear from your diaries, but please make sure you do so every morning.”

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

Dr Nerina continues: “You have a great balance of exercise with your yoga and HIIT training, but you should stop checking the time during the night as this could be disrupting your sleep. 

“I promise it’s normal to wake during the night but every time you check the time, or worse still, look at your phone, it brings you into full consciousness and you’re wide awake. I would also advise you to keep checking in with your breathing throughout the day to manage those anxiety levels.”

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.

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Dr Nerina Ramlakhan is a renowned physiologist and sleep expert and regularly hosts sleep programmes and workshops. She is the bestselling author of several books about sleep, including The Little Book of Sleep: The Art of Natural Sleep (Gaia, 2018).

Lead image design: Ami O’Callaghan

Stock images: Getty/Tracey Hocking/Unsplash

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Kayleigh Dray

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.

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