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 36-year-old PR wonders how she will ever get to sleep with her partner snoring away next to her.
A little about me:
Number of hours sleep you get each night: six or seven hours
Number of hours sleep you wish you got each night: eight hours
Any officially diagnosed sleep-related problems: I clench my jaw in my sleep and sometimes bite the inside of my mouth. I have vivid dreams which can also sometimes turn into nightmares. I can usually see where a dream has come from – for example if I am worrying about my something that may feature in my dream in an unusual way
Do you measure your sleep in some way (e.g. using your phone or wearable): I have a FitBit, but try not to look at my sleep tracking day to day. I sometimes look at it as an overview of a few weeks so I can’t put too much emphasis on what happened on a particular day
How much water you drink on average per day: 1-2 litres of water
How much exercise I do on average per week: I walk over 10,000 steps most days
I wake at 6.30 when my alarm goes off, but I don’t feel rested at all. I get up and go downstairs to get the children’s breakfast and snack for school ready. My son arrives downstairs just after me as he has always been an early riser. At 7.30am I take the dog for a 30-minute walk while my husband takes over getting the children ready for school. I’m back at 8am and drop the dog off and collect the children and then walk them to school. My husband hands me an oat milk coffee as I run out of the door, which I am very grateful for. I have forgotten to get cash out for my son’s school dinners, so we have to walk through town, which is slightly longer, so I am annoyed at myself and worried about being late.
I manage to get the children to school on time and then walk home via the river path, hoping the nature will calm me and ease the groggy feeling I still have. I’m home by 8.45am and set my laptop up at the table ready to start work at 9.00. I make an oat milk coffee and fill up the soda stream bottle to make a batch of sparkling water. I start work, catching up on emails and working out my schedule for the week. Mondays are always a lot of meetings, with the first starting at 10.00, just before I realise I haven’t eaten anything so I grab a banana.
For lunch I have avocado and poached egg on toast, although as I am eating it, I start to think too deeply about eggs and feel quite sick. I finish the toast and avocado and leave the egg!
Throughout the day I sip sparkling water and have to refill my 1ltr bottle around lunchtime.
I have another meeting at 2.30 but have to leave the house at 2.50 to collect the children from school. I leave mid- meeting and jump in the car to collect the children. My daughter has gymnastics at 4pm so we have a window of 45 minutes between collecting the children and the club starting so we swing home and collect the dog (she hasn’t been left much due to the pandemic and I try not to leave her for longer than an hour). We then drive back to Gymnastics and by this time town is super busy and I question my decision to go back and get the dog! We get to gym club with 10 minutes to spare and I get my daughter changed quickly and take her into her lesson. We can’t watch because of COVID so my son and I sit outside in the sunshine and catch up.
Gym finishes at 5pm and my son starts Cubs at 6pm so we rush home and I make a quick dinner for the children of fresh pasta with parmesan and a range of chopped up raw veg. Realising I haven’t eaten much I grab a packet of crisps and eat a few bits of the fresh pasta.
We rush out the door again at 5.45pm (leaving the dog behind) and get to cubs with 3 minutes to spare, although I kick myself as we have forgotten my son’s coat. My son is feeling quite nervous as it is his first face to face cubs but as we were rushing to get there I wasn’t listening properly and then felt quite guilty. Once back home I play with my daughter in the garden and then get her ready for bed. My husband is collecting my son from cubs so thankfully I don’t need to go back out again!
We get the children to bed and asleep by 8.30pm but then have to cook dinner as I haven’t had time in my busy day! I make Seabass with tender stem broccoli, pan fried courgettes and wilted spinach. I have a glass of water with my dinner. By the time its cooked I am exhausted and its about 9.00pm. We eat, watch some TV and then clean the kitchen about 10pm and put the dishwasher on.
I’m in bed by around 10.30pm and settle down to read my book, however I wake with a jerk when I drop my book and then switch the light off probably around 10.45pm. By the end of the day, I have done 14,000 steps
My husband’s snoring wakes me around 5am and I nudge him to get him to move positions to stop the snoring and go back to sleep. The dog gets on our bed around 5.30 and wakes me again. This time I can’t get back to sleep as my brain has started thinking about work and what I need to do that day. I read my book to stop thinking about work and then get out of bed at 6.30am when my alarm goes off.
I get up, make a cup of tea with oat milk and then make breakfast and snacks for the children. My husband offers to take the dog for a walk today, so I help the children get ready and French plait my daughters’ hair. We leave for school at 8am and walk there in good time. I walk back through town today as I need to pick up some things from Boots and then treat myself to an Oat Cappuccino and an apricot croissant from Café Nero on the way home. I’m home by 8.50am and sparkle some water ready for the day. I start work at 9am and have a busy day writing and catching up with colleagues.
At 10am I make myself another oat coffee.
For lunch I have the leftover fresh pasta with a big bowl full of spinach and avocado. I drink sparkling water with lunch and eat a few chocolate digestives. Then, I plough on through work in the afternoon, although my energy levels are quite low and check in with my mum that she is still OK to collect the children from school. I work until 5pm and then take the dog for a quick walk around the field before picking my son up from my mum’s. He has swimming lessons, so I leave my daughter at my mums and rush round to the pool. We get there just in time and while he is in the pool, I pop to Waitrose next door to pick up a few bits that we are running low on. I wait the rest of the time in the car and eat a couple of cheese and onion rolls I fancied when shopping. I collect my son and we pop back to my mum’s to collect my daughter.
For dinner we have meatballs in a tomato and vegetable sauce, although I don’t eat any meatballs – just the sauce with spaghetti (more pasta) and parmesan. I drink water with dinner.
We get the children to bed and they are asleep by 8.30. I finish up a couple of bits of work and watch some tv. I go and have a bath at 9.30 and am in bed by 10.15. I read my book but don’t fall asleep reading it this time so have to force myself to stop reading and switch the light out by about 10.45. I don’t hear my husband come to bed. I have done 11,000 steps today.
I am woken in the night by my husband’s snoring – not sure of the time as I try not to check as this just makes me stressed about how much time until I need to get up – and nudge him until he rolls over. I fall back to sleep quite easily.
I wake at 6.30am thanks to my alarm, after having a strange dream about a zoo where all the enclosures were too small for the animals.
Today is my day off! I go downstairs make a cup of tea and the children’s breakfast and the snack for school. I’m out the door at 7.30am to walk the dog. She is nine months old, and I am doing lots of training with her at the moment; we have a great training session and I come home feeling really positive. I drop the dog off and pick the kids up and walk to school. I walk home by the river again, I love seeing all the dogs out for walks and the swans nesting and the ducks on the river, a lovely start to the day!
I get home by 8.45am and have lots of different things jumbling around my head that I need to get done. I sit down with an oat coffee and some fruit toast and make a start on getting through my to-do list.
At 9.45am, I leave for puppy training class and I sip some water on the way. I have endometriosis and my lower back is painful today. I have a great training session with the dog and rush back as I have a zoom call for work which I need to join. While the zoom is on, I drink an Oat coffee and eat a banana.
For lunch I have the left over veg sauce from the meatballs and drink water. After lunch I try and relax and read my book for an hour but end up dozing for around 20 minutes. I am feeling quite exhausted at the moment and the pain in my lower back still hasn’t gone.
I take the dog out for a walk and then drop her home and walk to school to collect the children. No clubs today so we can enjoy a relaxed walk home. Once home its homework, cooking dinner which is sausages, rice and vegetables for the children and a chicken curry with butternut squash and spinach for my husband and I, which we will reheat later once he is home. I do some housework and have a quick tidy up while the children are watching TV.
The children are in bed by 8.00 and then my husband and I eat the curry around 8.30. I have a small glass of white wine with dinner followed by some more water. We watch some TV but I’m not really paying attention as I am scrolling through my personal email and Twitter on my phone.
I go to bed around 10pm and I can’t wait to get to sleep. I spray my pillow with sleep spray read for a while and I fall asleep quickly and its no wonder as I have done 20,000 steps today!
I am awoken at some point early morning as I can see it’s getting light. I’m not sure what has woken me but I think its one of the children moving around it their room. I lay still listening for a while but when I don’t hear any more think they may have just been turning over in their sleep or something.
My husbands snoring stops me from getting back to sleep and I again nudge him until he rolls over. I eventually fall back asleep, but my alarm wakes me at 6.30am and I get up feeling anxious about the day. I have booked tomorrow off, and I have too much on my to do list to get done in one day! I make an oat tea and breakfast for the children. Head out with the dog for a walk and then drop her off and pick up the children and take them to school. We get there on time and I walk back via the river.
Once home I make and oat coffee, grab a banana and get some sparkling water and get started for the day. A couple of extra things that I wasn’t expecting landed on my desk, so I am feeling a bit stressed. I plough through my to do list and my husband is also working from home today, so we share a quiche with some salad for lunch.
In the afternoon we eat some biscuits and I finish work at 2.50 and rush out to collect the children from school. I know I haven’t got everything done and need to do some extra work in the evening to finish up.
The children are excited as we are off to Norfolk tomorrow to meet up with my brother and his family, although I am feeling guilty as they will be missing school on Monday. When we get home the children pack their bags, and we all eat dinner together at 6.15. We have sausage and roast sweet potato with cabbage, peas and carrots and some water.
The children are in bed by 8.30 and then I finish up some last bits of work before putting on my out of office. I am in bed by 10.30 but feeling stressed about packing and getting ready to leave the next day – I hate packing – I always forget something vital and then feel annoyed at myself.
I fall asleep quite quickly after reading my book. I have done 13,000 steps today.
I wake with a start when my son comes in our room and look at the time – its 7.20 and I have somehow managed to turn my alarm off and have overslept. I have a click and collect food shop booked between 7 and 8 but luckily my husband quickly gets dressed and goes to pick it up. Once he is back, we put the fridge stuff away and leave the rest for when we get back from the school run.
We take the children to school and the dog comes too as no time to walk her before! We drop the children off and grab a coffee on the way home. I then leave my husband to walk home, and I take the dog to a nearby field for some training.
I am back at about 9.45am and then jump on my computer to catch up on a few outstanding jobs that I need to do. My husband wants to pop into town for a haircut, so I go with him about 11am and search the shops for a onesie for my daughter as they are having a onesie day at school next week. I walk home with no onesie and make a mental note to order one online. I’m feeling a bit funny so grab a coffee on the way back, although I then realise that I don’t really want it – I’m actually hungry! My husband gets home about 1pm and we make some lunch, a cheese ploughman’s with brown seeded toast and lots of salad. I then start panicking as we haven’t started packing and have to collect the children from school soon. We quickly pack and then I rush out of the house at 2.50pm to walk to school. My husband is going to follow in the car after doing some last-minute jobs.
We leave for Norfolk and I am worrying that I haven’t turned the oven off (I cooked a gammon earlier for us to have cold when we arrive) but my husband assures me I did. I then start worrying about the guinea pigs and whether they will be OK, even though my mum is coming in to feed them. Once I have got my worries out of the way I sit back and try and have a doze in the car, although its tricky with the children excitedly chatting in the back. I drink water on the journey, and we stop for snacks on the way.
Once we arrive, and my brother and his family have also arrived from their nearby holiday cottage we open some prosecco and have a cold dinner of picky foods with gammon, crisps, dips, cheese, chopped up veg and crackers. The children haven’t seen their cousins for months so are all excitedly playing together while the adults catch up.
We are in bed by about 10.30pm but as we are somewhere new, I can’t sleep – even with my own memory foam pillow from home and my sleep spray. I lay awake for what seems like hours (with my husband snoring on and off!) and then after finally falling asleep I am awoken by my son at 4.30am as he has got up to use the toilet. Once I have checked he is OK and put an extra blanket on both children as its cold, I finally fall back asleep as the birds start singing.
So, what does it all mean? A sleep expert offers her thoughts
Dr Nerina Ramlakhan, sleep expert and professional physiologist, says: “I’m not surprised that you’re dreaming about zoo animals locked away in too-small enclosures – some breathing space is needed! However, there are phases of life that we simply have to navigate and you seem to be doing a good job of it with a good diet, impressive step count and positive mental attitude.
“That being said, I would recommend that you do have a small breakfast with the kids before leaving the house – even if it’s just a handful of nuts and a piece of fruit. Fasting in the morning isn’t going to work for you as your personal and professional life is demanding, and you need to fuel to meet this demand otherwise you’ll get run down and your endometriosis symptoms could be more painful.
“You need a bit of a lift in the mornings which could last throughout the da, and at the moment you’re getting your energy from caffeine and carbohydrates. Having a small but good source of protein first thing in the morning will give you that boost, as well as help with mood and general wellbeing.”
Dr Nerina finishes: “As for the snoring husband – could you encourage him to drink more water, maybe? As a quick fix, though, I suggest you put a fan in the bedroom.
“Why? Well, as per the Sleep Foundation, disruptive sounds such as a slamming door or a snorer do not necessarily wake you up because they are loud; rather, the change in sound consistency from soft to loud can be strong enough to interrupt your sleep.
“Popping a fan in the room should produce a source of white noise, essentially creating a blanket of sound that masks these sudden consistency changes and minimising the noise intrusion. Plus, studies have shown that white noise can help people get to sleep more quickly, so it’s a win-win. Good luck!”
If you would like to take part in Stylist’s Sleep Diaries, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with ‘SLEEP DIARIES’ as the subject. We look forward to hearing from you.
Lead image design: Ami O’Callaghan
Images: Getty/Unsplash/Ben Blennerhassett/Taisiia Shestopal
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.