Why making more time for rest throughout the day is the key to deeper 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 32-year-old journalist wonders how she can enjoy more restorative, deep sleep at night.

A little about me:

Age: 32

Occupation: journalist

Number of hours sleep you get each night: in bed for 8 hours, but usually asleep for 6-7 hours

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

Do you measure your sleep in some way (e.g. using your phone or wearable): yes, I have a WHOOP

How much water do you drink on average per day: 3-4 litres

How much exercise do you do on average per week: I do 10,000 steps every day, and work out 5 or 6 days a week

Day 1

Since moving house a couple of weeks ago, I’ve fallen into a really bad habit of falling asleep on the sofa every night while watching the TV (usually between 8pm and 9:30pm), and then struggling to get to sleep when I actually go to bed.

Tonight is no different – I wake up in front of the TV thinking I’m actually in bed, and then once I’m in bed, I can’t drift off for ages. I also get up around 4am to go to the toilet. 

“Since moving house a couple of weeks ago, I’ve fallen into a really bad habit of falling asleep on the sofa every night”

Day 2

I’m normally an early-morning exerciser, but today I go to the gym at lunchtime and spend the afternoon feeling really energised as a result.

At 6:30pm, I have a two-hour Portugese class, which is so tricky I swear I can feel the new neuron pathways being burned through my brain. By the time it ends, I feel like I’ve run a marathon, and after a late dinner and rest in front of the TV (we watch Inside Dubai: The Playground Of The Rich) I decide to get ready to bed.

I’m in bed by 11pm and out like a light, until my kitten starts pawing my face at 4:30am.

Day 3

I stay in bed way past my alarm, and don’t get up until after 7am. When I do get up, however, I feel way more refreshed than usual – I wonder if I need to sleep in more?

After work I run to pilates and back, and feel really ready for bed when 10pm comes around. I fall asleep easily, and even my boyfriend coming back from the pub late doesn’t really disturb me.

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However, come 4am, I wake up in a cold sweat thinking about work – at that time of the morning, I find it hard to do anything about my stresses except brood on them.

Day 4

Today I get up at 5:45am (after about an hour of dozing and checking my watch), and cycle to a spin class.

At this point I’m exhausted and also super-wired (that’s stress for you!). Come lunchtime I cycle back home and am thankful that my social plans have been cancelled this evening.

However, when its time to go to bed I’m still feeling on edge, so it takes a bit of time to fall asleep.

“It’s turned into a glorious morning outside, and I’m feeling really calm as I walk back to my flat to start work.”

Day 5

It’s Friday, and I end the week with another early morning class in town – this time, it’s hot pilates. By the time the session is over its turned into a glorious morning outside, and I’m feeling really calm as I walk back to my flat to start work.

After I sign off for the evening, a friend comes over for dinner, bringing within them a load of catnip-infused toys for my new kitten. They drive him crazy, and for the first time since he came to live with us, he sleeps soundly by my side from 11pm to 6am.

It’s the best night sleep I’ve had since Christmas.

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

Dr Nerina Ramlakhan, sleep expert and professional physiologist, says: “Falling asleep in front of the TV is a no-no!Often people do this and then get up to go to bed and can’t sleep. The trick is to watch TV and spot when you’re starting to feel relaxed – this is when you need to start preparing for bed and ideally, this would be around 9.30pm with lights out at around 10pm at least a few nights a week (check out my 5 non-negotiables). 

There’s no doubt about it, you need more sleep; your life – and mind – seem to run at high speed so more time is needed to unwind and decompress so you can sleep deeply and restoratively. Your exercise routine is admirable, but she could benefit from substituting with some relaxing forms of exercise too – maybe Yin yoga instead of hot pilates?”

Sleep expert Dr Nerina Ramlakhan

Dr Nerina continues: “Ironically, the more we build rest and recovery into our waking hours, the better and deeper we actually sleep. She actually uses the words ‘super-wired’ and she’s spot on.

“Finally, it’s totally normal to get up during the night to go to the loo – it’s even normal to go more than once. The key is to not check the time when you wake up and then use deep breathing and focusing on resting to ease back into sleep.”

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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