Sleep

“Could napping really make me a better runner?” – a sleep expert answers your questions

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 25-year-old marathon runner wonders how she can tweak her sleep routine to enhance muscle repair and recovery.

A little about me:

  • Age: 25
  • Occupation: Editorial content assistant
  • Number of hours sleep I get each night: 7.5
  • Number of hours sleep I wish I got each night: 7.5
  • Any officially diagnosed sleep-related problems: No
  • How much water I drink on average per day: 3-4 litres
  • How much exercise I do on average per week: I walk my dog daily, I am also training for the London Marathon and try and run 3-4 times a week.

Day 1

I finish work at 6pm and take my dog out for a walk: I find this really helps me end the day as I can switch off and be in the fresh air. 

I drop her home and head off to do the weekly food shop. By the time I get home my boyfriend is making supper (rye bread and a poached egg), and we sit down to eat at about 7:30. Once I’ve eaten, I hop in the shower and then sit in front of the TV with a bottle of water and mug of hot ginger with a face mask. 

I use Monday nights to get ready for the week ahead and rarely make plans. And I changed the sheets earlier today, and have a very clean house following a mass tidy up on Sunday, so getting into bed at 9:30 feels dreamy

I always text my family group chat saying goodnight before I go to bed and apply a thick layer of lip balm. This done, I fall asleep within about 10 minutes and I don’t knowingly wake in the night. 

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Day 2

My alarm goes off at 6.30am, just like it does every weekday, and although I can hear the rain outside it isn’t too painful getting up. I go downstairs and have a bottle of water, feed my dog and then make a cup of tea in a keep-cup for her walk. 

It’s a very wet walk today, but it gears me up for the morning! I get back, have a shower and make an oat milk coffee. I am at my desk by 08:00 and have my second (and last coffee) at 10.

I finish work and then start prepping gluten-free crab linguine. My friend comes over and we have a couple of glasses of wine whilst having a long overdue catch up. She leaves at around 8:30 and I have another glass of wine with my boyfriend as we watch some TV. 

I shower before bed and drink a bottle of water and turn the light off at 10:30. I fall asleep fast, and sleep really deeply.

Sleep diaries: How much sleep do runners need?
Sleep diaries: How much sleep do runners need?

Day 3

I wake up about 5 minutes before my alarm goes off at 6:30. I have a cup of tea while my dog eats her breakfast before her morning walk. She is in training at the moment so I’m outside for an hour: it’s fresh and sunny – the perfect start to the day. I come back, shower and go through emails with an oat latte.

As soon as I finish work, I go for a run, followed by a walk to the pub with our neighbours. We’re able to sit outside until about 9:30. And, as I am driving home, I stick to lime soda.

I’m exhausted when I get back in, so hop straight in the shower and then into bed. I sleep so well.

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Day 4

I feel very refreshed when I wake up, and treat myself to a half an hour lie. My boyfriend walks our dog so I am able to sit and have a cup of coffee with some breakfast, avocado on rye bread. 

The result of this? Well, I feel great all day and get masses done. So much so that, once I finish work, I get in the car and drive to my parents for supper and a sleepover. 

We arrive and have a glass of wine followed by a delicious puy lentil salad supper (I automatically feel lighter and fresher when I don’t eat meat but I definitely think this is psychological!). We have some wine with supper, too, but I still make time for a bubble bath and a face mask.

I feel so relaxed when I get into bed and fall into a very deep sleep. My parents live in the country so there are no outside noises and I always find I sleep better in my old home bed!

Sleep diaries: Puy are an excellent source of B vitamins, iron, magnesium, potassium and zinc.
Sleep diaries: Puy are an excellent source of B vitamins, iron, magnesium, potassium and zinc.

Day 5

I wake up at 6:30 and take my dog and my parents’ dog on a walk in the rain. I start work at 8:30 on a Friday, as opposed to 8, and find the extra half an hour in the morning makes a huge difference. I’m able to have a coffee, I sit down to a proper breakfast, and it all feels less manic than usual!

Finishing at 4:30 on a Friday is the biggest work perk! I take my dog for a quick walk in the rain before going to pick my brother up from the station. I am so tired, as it’s the end of the week, but really excited to be back with my family and for everyone to be home. My mum has made a really delicious Thai salad for supper, and I decide not to drink just so I can enjoy a really good night’s sleep. 

I get to bed at 10 and sleep solidly until 7. I wake up feeling like a new person and ready for the weekend. I even manage to go on a run before coming back and having breakfast.

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

Dr Nerina Ramlakhan, sleep expert and professional physiologist, says: “What more can I add?! You have a great routine and very balanced lifestyle, plus good supportive relationships with your dog, partner, family and friends. You are clearly active, and support this with good hydration and nutrition. 

“And I’m not going to quibble over your caffeine intake as it seems to work for you.”

Dr Nerina Ramlakhan
Dr Nerina Ramlakhan

Dr Nerina adds: “As you up your mileage, it might be good to squeeze in some replacement naps to enhance muscle repair and recovery. Ideally, aim to get these in after your long weekend run at some point between 2 and 4pm but no later and no longer than 40mins. 

“Good luck with the marathon!”

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

Images: Getty

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