“Should I be taking vitamin supplements?” 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 35-year-old project coordinator absolutely blows Dr Nerina Ramlakhan away with her fantastic lifestyle habits. But should she be taking vitamin supplements?

A little about me:

Age: 35

Occupation: project coordinator

Number of hours sleep you get each night: 8/9

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

Do you grind your teeth/have nightmares: I experience vivid dreams almost every night

How much water you drink on average per day: 3 litres

How much exercise I do on average per week: : I train 6 days a week and aim to complete 10,000 steps most days

Day 1

It’s Sunday today and I slept the previous night at my brother’s house who is considered my ‘support bubble’. I get home around 3pm. Today is an active ‘rest’ day so I have not trained but did manage to go for a nice long walk.

I cook myself a roast dinner for one and sit down to watch netflix around 5pm. I have a chamomile tea and pack myself off to bed around 9:30 which is pretty normal for me. I moisturise my face, and brush my teeth. I scroll on my phone for about 5 minutes then activate night mode and put headspace sleep music on a timer for the next hour. I’m feeling pretty relaxed and sleepy. 

Woman cooking roast chicken in an oven
Sleep Diaries: I make myself a roast chicken for dinner.

I go to sleep very quickly, but wake myself up after having some vivid dreams about work. Not sure what has triggered this. I get up to use the bathroom and fall back to sleep pretty quickly.

I drink a lot of water every day, about 3/3.5 litres but usually reduce this after 6pm to avoid waking up! The cat sleeps on the bed next to me all night and only wakes up when I do. I wake up naturally about 7:30 and feel refreshed, it is starting to get light which makes me happy. I haven’t been setting an alarm recently as I always wake up early. 

Day 2

I wake up at 7:30, check my emails, feed the cat and make myself a coffee. I do a 45 minute weights session, shower and make some porridge and fruit before starting work around 9/930. I go for a walk at 12pm to break up the day and manage 10,500 steps. My lunch consists of leftover chicken roast from yesterday.

I have a fairly busy afternoon and sit down to eat fajitas for dinner around 5:45. I spend 30 minutes chatting on the phone to a friend and the rest of the evening watching tv. By the time I get into bed it’s 1015, I have fresh bedding on but don’t drop off until probably 11 as my upstairs neighbours are noisy (aided by usual headspace ‘powder down’ music).

I wake up at 01:15 to use the bathroom, I never usually do this and now it’s the second night running. The cat sleeps on the bed next to me all night and only wakes up when I do. I wake up naturally about 7:30 feeling groggy and tired.

Day 3

I wake up at 7:30, check my emails, feed the cat and make myself a coffee. I am slow to get started but manage a 30 minute weights session, shower and make some porridge and fruit before starting work around 930. I do a 20 minute yoga stretch before eating lunch. At 1:30 in between meetings I go for a walk and complete 7,000 steps. 

I treat myself to a take away coffee. I start to crash around 4pm but don’t finish work until 5:30. I make dinner and have an evening without using my phone, watching my favourite TV show – Married At First Sight

I go to bed at 9:30 and initiate headspace ‘power down’ music. I feel a little pensive this evening- lockdown woes but manage to drop off to sleep. I wake up several times as the wind is howling and super strong. I wake up at 6:30 naturally and feel quite sprightly and positive for the day ahead. 

I love waking up early. Part of the reason I go to bed so early is for this reason, plus also living alone and being fairly bored in the evenings (and doing dry January!).

Working on a laptop at sunrise - stock photo
Sleep Diaries: I love waking up early in the morning.

Day 4

I wake up at 6:30 naturally. I have a coffee and spend 15 minutes writing affirmations, gratitude, and manifestation. I train for 45 minutes, shower and sit down to work with a bowl of porridge for 9am. It’s a pretty quiet day workwise. I make myself a lunch of eggs and then take myself out for a long walk at lunchtime and hit 10,000 steps. 

I spend the time walking chatting to a friend on the phone and then listening to an audio book. I have dinner at 5pm, watch tv but feel super tired so I am tucked up and asleep in bed by 9pm. I wake up at 1:15am as the wind is loud, but manage to doze off again an hour or so later until waking up 7:15. 

I have some vivid dreams so feel groggy when I open my eyes with one foot in reality and the other still in the dream.

Day 5 

I wake up at 7:15am naturally, I feed the cat, make myself a coffee and get back into bed whilst checking my emails. After coffee, I tackle a 60 minute training session before sitting down at my desk for 9am with porridge. 

I have some leftover chicken and potatoes before doing my usual long walk at lunchtime. I have some fruit and a protein yoghurt when I get back but feel super lethargic by 3pm and look forward to getting on the sofa asap. 

Parts of my dream comes back to me over the course of the day, I have always been a vivid dreamer and dream most nights which makes me feel super tired the next day. 

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

Dr Nerina Ramlakhan, sleep expert and professional physiologist, says: “I’m very impressed; you have an absolutely fantastic lifestyle routine, and you should feel very proud of yourself.

“Everything we’re talking about here is fine tuning, solely so you have more energy and less dips. I’m wondering if you take any additional vitamin supplements to support training and general wellbeing? The NHS recommends everyone take a vitamin D supplement during the colder months as it’s difficult to metabolise enough of the sunshine vitamin when it’s overcast, but some people may find that they need to take a supplement all year long – it’s about figuring out what your body needs.

“I also recommend making sure that you’re getting enough protein in your breakfast; you can easily top this up by adding chia seeds or ground almonds to her porridge and fruit.” 

    Dr Nerina Ramlakhan
    Sleep expert Dr Nerina Ramlakhan

    Dr Nerina continues: “Your water intake is great, so how about taking it to the next level and alkalising the water by adding some fresh lemon juice and a small pinch of natural sea salt to the water? You only need to do this with around 1.5litres of your water.

    “I say this a lot, but please can she stop checking the time when you wake up during the night as you’re embedding a 1.15am waking habit! If you need to get up for the loo, do so but don’t check the time.

    “Finally, are you creative? Writing that bestselling novel might just help with those vivid dreams – or, failing that, try keeping a gratitude journal. Good 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/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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