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 28-year-old postgraduate student discovers how her perfectionism could be impacting her sleep.
A little about me:
Occupation: MSc student
Number of hours sleep you get each night: 5-9 hours
Number of hours sleep you wish you got each night: 8 hours
Do you grind your teeth/have nightmares: I grind my teeth
How much water do you drink on average per day: about 5 litres
How much exercise do you do on average per week: about 6 hours per week plus 8 hours walking
I tend to exercise in the morning these days and take a one-hour walk at lunchtime, and I manage to fit both in today.
After a full day of work (I finish about 7pm), I head to the kitchen to prepare some bean salad for my dinner, which I eat with some applesauce for pudding.
I finish eating at around 7:45pm and changed into some comfier clothes before watching some TV until 10pm. I then do some yoga until about 10:40pm, after which I head up to bed. I spend some time reading and turn the lights off by 11:15pm. I find it relatively easy to fall asleep (I’m asleep by about 11:30pm), and sleep through the night.
I wake up the next morning around 8:30am and follow my usual morning routine of exercise and a cup of green tea before I start work.
Today is the last day of work this term, so I spend the whole day working except for a break in the afternoon for a one hour walk. After that I head straight back to writing my essay, before taking another break at 7pm to eat some dinner – tonight I’m eating a homemade bean burger patty (vegan) with some tomatoes and salad.
After work I get straight to work again until 9:30pm, when I pack everything up and get ready for bed. I then settle down in front of the TV with some nuts to snack on.
I head up to bed about 11pm, where I end up reading a few pages of my book. I’m feeling very stressed and nervous about tomorrow because my assignment is due, and find myself wondering about whether or not I’ll be able to finish it.
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These thoughts take up my brain for a while, and it takes me until about 3am to fall asleep. However, once I’m asleep I sleep right through, and wake up at 9am with no alarm.
As I start the day I’m feeling very tired and exhausted, but manage to do some exercise for about an hour before I get ready. I head straight to work and only have breakfast (some fruits) at around 1pm.
After submitting my assignment and I’m relieved to have my work completed, so take some time for myself throughout the day by reading a book and enjoying a nice long walk. Once I’m home I sit down with my book again, and read until around 6pm. I then do a quick half-hour of yoga before heading to the kitchen to prepare dinner – some soup with a salad.
Afterwards I decide to watch some TV for a bit, before I decide to run a warm bath about 9pm. I get out of the bath at about 9:30pm and go to write in my journal.
I decide to have an early night tonight after the stress of the last couple of days, so I’m in bed by 10:30pm and turn off the light pretty soon after. I’m asleep by 11:30pm.
I only wake once during the night because I need to go to the bathroom, but afterwards I have a surprisingly hard time falling asleep again, so I’m awake from 3:30am-4:30am. Eventually I manage to doze off, and sleep until 8:45am when I get up and follow my morning routine as usual.
Today is the first day in months that I have absolutely nothing to do. However, I do have to complete a long drive tomorrow because I’m going on holiday with my parents to my grandma’s house, so I spend the whole day packing my things, cleaning and organising my room. I also re-schedule some appointments for next week (the trip was a little spontaneous). I’m excited to see my family again and go skiing!
Once everything is set for the next day I decide to do some yoga for half an hour at 5:30pm, before heading out for spring rolls with tofu, which I ate two of. I watch TV from 8-9:30pm and snack on some nuts before heading up to bed.
By 10pm I’m in bed (I want to get a good night’s sleep because of the drive I have to do tomorrow) but end up reading for an hour. I turn off the lights at 11:05pm, but can’t get to sleep until 1:30am (or at least that’s when I last check the clock).
My alarm goes off at 7:30am and I get up straight away in order to get the last few things ready for my trip. I drink a green tea while getting ready and take some with me on my drive.
My parents and I drive for around five hours throughout the day with some breaks spent sitting in the car and doing a few star jumps. It’s 4pm when we arrive at our destination, and we spend some time settling in and discussing the next few days before I drive to borrow some skis.
I get back at 5pm and read until 6:30pm, before sitting down for dinner at 7pm. I eat some quinoa with vegetables and artichoke, and am finished by 7:45pm.
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After eating we head into the living room to chat for a bit, before getting ready for bed at 9:30pm. I’m in bed at 10pm and read until 11pm.
However, once I turn the light off I struggle to get to sleep, so decide to read a few more pages of my book at 12:30am. I don’t know why I’m struggling to sleep so much, especially because my assignments are over and I have no work to worry about for the time being.
I turn the lights off again around 1am when I start to get tired, but as soon as I do I’m wide awake again and can’t fall asleep. I lay there for another hour before picking my book up again and reading until 4:30am, when I finally fall asleep.
Despite my lack of sleep I wake up before my alarm at 8:30am. I have some breakfast at 9:30am and head off for my ski day.
So, what does it all mean? A sleep expert offers her thoughts
Dr Nerina Ramlakhan, sleep expert and professional physiologist, says: “You’re clearly fit and active, eat healthily and seem to be very aware of the need for good habits and routines. However, you also seem to be a sensitive sleeper (in my sleep classifications) so you really needs to work on letting go of the day, managing your stress levels and practicing relaxation techniques.
“You seem to be checking the time a lot during the night and this needs to stop as you’re overly vigilant about how much time you’re spending awake and when you’re falling asleep. I recommend you use your yoga techniques – particularly deep breathing – to enable you to stay restful even if you’re awake. You journal so perhaps keeping a gratitude journal might help to relieve your stress levels.”
Dr Nerina continues: “Are you a perfectionist? Teeth grinding or ‘bruxism’ often comes with the territory. You’ve got a lot on your plate with studying, but can you relax your grip a bit? Do you allow yourself to have fun and play from time to time? This can be a perfect antidote to perfectionism (no pun intended).
“You need to eat breakfast every morning too – you’re very active and studying takes a lot of energy too. This will also help with your sleep – perhaps you can check out my five non-negotiables.”
If you would like to take part in Stylist’s Sleep Diaries, please email us at [email protected] with your name, age and any sleep problems you’re dealing with, using ‘SLEEP DIARIES’ as the subject. We look forward to hearing from you.
Lead image design: Ami O’Callaghan
Other images: Getty/Dr Nerina Ramlakhan
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