Long Reads

Stylist Sleep Diaries: our beauty director reveals her 16-step bedtime routine

How well do you sleep? In a new series of diary entries from women across the UK, Stylist is exploring one of our most prolific obsessions…

Here, a beauty director talks us through her product-heavy nighttime routine, and discusses the benefits of journaling, meditation and a calming salt lamp.

Name: Anita Bhagwandas

Age: 34

Profession: Journalist (beauty director at Stylist)

Ideal amount of sleep: 9 hours

Actual amount of sleep: 6/7ish

Describe your sleep quality in three words: Never, ever enough

Rate your sleep out of 10: 7/10

I need a lot of sleep. In my twenties, I could cope with going to parties until 5am and then heading straight into work (sorry, former bosses) but now I just can’t deal with the lack of sleep. Any kind of lack of sleep in fact. So much so that I’ve implemented quite a tough routine on myself.

When it works, it’s perfect – the combination of wellness meets routine is brilliant. But when it doesn’t, I end up making myself more anxious about not sleeping and how tired I could be the next day. I definitely take it too seriously and now I can’t work out if I’ve conditioned myself to want more sleep than I need, or if I genuinely am sleep deprived.

Some days I’m out late at work events so I just end up crashing when I get home, but detailed below is my general sleep routine. 

8.30pm: I’m pretty tired at this point, having either arrived home late from work or post gym. I sometimes think I could fall asleep now because I genuinely feel fried, but awake I shall stay. Although I do have a reminder set on my iPhone that tells me I have an hour until I need to go to bed - ergo, tidy the kitchen, make your lunch and pack your gym kit. I wish I had more energy but I don’t – this is probably diet and stress-related. 

9.30pm: I try to turn my laptop off now. I make sure everything is set for the next day and get ready for bed – a ritual in itself. First I head to the bathroom to take off my make-up, using an oil-based cleanser (usually Tata Harper Nourishing Oil Cleanser) to remove and dissolve my make-up. I follow this with a cream cleanser for a deeper cleanse (I love Tata Harper Regenerating Cleanser). They cost a fortune so I use them very sparingly indeed - no more than the size of a five pence piece. After that I apply a pre-serum (which has loads of lovely skin plumping hyaluronic acid in) to my face and massage it in using techniques I’ve gleaned from mega facialist Nichola Joss. I’ll brush my teeth (I alternate toothpastes, so use Sensodyne Pronamel Gentle Whitening paste in the morning and then a more abrasive one in the evening (Colgate Max White Expert Complete)  to keep them as bright as possible. I always use a Philips Sonicare toothbrush.)

Next, I head upstairs for more skincare. I have all my skincare products next to my bed, and I use a different one each night, once I’ve gotten into bed. So one night it’s a retinol (I like the Neostrata one), then another night I will use Rodin’s facial oil, then another evening I’ll opt for a stronger vitamin C product. And then a couple of nights of nothing! I sleep with silk pillowcases by Slip – the silk is meant to glide over the skin and hair, making sure it isn’t pulled during the night. I move about a lot in the night so this is crucial. I’ll plait my hair before bed and use an Invisibobble to make sure it doesn’t pull during the night. If I don’t do this, my hair matts in the night and I end up with one giant dread. 

10.00pm: I will have turned off all the artificial lighting in my bedroom by now, aside from my salt lamp which is meant to promote easy breathing and purify the air. I like the gentle pink light it gives off – it feels spa-like and zen. I’ll do an app meditation from Happy Not Perfect or Insight Timer to address whatever has come up during the day (I tend towards being very critical of myself and quite anxious, so it’s usually something along those lines). I can only ever do about 10 minutes, max.

Then I’ll post on Instagram because that’s usually when I get my best engagement, and that takes about 15 minutes. I do get a bit distracted by social media; I try and stop by 10.15pm, but really I should turn it off far earlier.

Finally, I’ll spritz my pillow with Ren’s & Now To Sleep pillow spray, which helps make me feel sleepy. Then I’ll usually write a page in my diary (I have a little notebook from Kikki.K) and I always finish by writing down three things I’m grateful for.

10.30pm: Now is the crunch point. I either plunge into a social-media induced scrolling session, which results in a rubbish night’s sleep, or I fall asleep immediately. As well as my silk pillowcase, I have a John Lewis Amicor duvet and pillow set, which is clinically proven to reduce allergies (I get bad eczema). 

But before I drift off, I’ll put on a silk eye mask by Slip, and potentially earplugs if I need them. I do sometimes worry that I might not hear a fire alarm if I use them, so that’s quite rare. I also put my phone on airplane mode so that alerts don’t wake me up.

3am: I usually wake up and need the loo – I always try to sleep through it because it’s downstairs and I’m very lazy. I sort of wish it was ‘yore’ so I could just pee in a chamber pot, but alas that isn’t the case. I trudge downstairs trying not to wake myself up too much then throw myself back into bed, where I usually manage to drift off.

6.15am: Depending on what I’m doing that morning – typically an early launch, a flight or a gym session – I’ll wake up and think about whether I could snooze. The answer is usually no, so I’ll check social media before getting up fairly begrudgingly. I’m usually tired, and very rarely wake up feeling full of energy. I’ll check my Fitbit to see how much sleep I got, although I do find the Sleep Cycle app is more accurate at pinpointing this. It’s never enough, or what I expected, which is disappointing considering my elaborate pre-sleep routine.

6.30am: I’ll go downstairs, pop the kettle on and jump in the shower using loads of essential oils to wake me up (Aromatherapy Associates Inner Strength is a favourite). If I need a serious wake up, Dr Bronners Peppermint Castile Liquid Soap is excellent. Then I’ll brush my teeth, cleanse again using the same night-time combination, and use the following skincare: Elizabeth Arden Superstart Skin Renewal Boost, Shiseido Ultimune Power Infusing Concentrate, Erborian Ginseng Milk Lotion and then potentially, if I need it, some Argentum Apothecary moisturiser. My body is very dry and eczema-prone so I need a strong moisturiser. I love CeraVe Moisturising Cream; it’s been a godsend.

7.00am: I’ll run upstairs and get dressed while sipping a cup of Yogi Women’s Energy Tea – I love that there are little quotes with each bag. I’ll sit and meditate for 5-10 minutes using apps, usually holding a crystal that I feel drawn to. I have about 10 crystals, all varying in size and type. I wash them in cold water to re-energise them and will usually put the same crystal in my bra for the day.

I’ll also spritz a few pumps of Ila Apothecary Beat The Blues room spray, which is instant bliss. After this I’ll grab my stuff for work and leave the house – I’ll listen to a wellness podcast on the way in, such as Her Rules Radio or Don’t Salt My Game, or I’ll listen to an audio book on a similar topic. If I’m exhausted by wellness, which does happen quite often, I’ll listen to something super funny like My Dad Wrote A Porno, Savage Lovecast or Guys We F**ked – sometimes you just need the lols.

Eye mask courtesy of Oliver Bonas