“The world feels overwhelming right now – how can I stop it from impacting my 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 47-year-old designer finds out how to stop her emotions from sabotaging her sleep.

A little about me:

Age: 47

Occupation: designer

Number of hours sleep you get each night: 4-5 hours

Number of hours sleep you wish you got each night: 6-8 hours (undisrupted)

Do you grind your teeth/have nightmares: I have nightmares.

Do you measure your sleep in some way (e.g. using your phone or wearable): I check the time on my phone when I wake up to see what time it is.

How much water do you drink on average per day: I have a 500ml bottle I try to drink daily.

How much exercise do you do on average per week: I do daily squats and pilates using bands at home on average 5-10 minutes daily. Sometimes I walk half an hour to my part-time job once a week.

Day 1

I wake up between 5am and 6am but I don’t get up until 8.30am. I have a glass of water on waking and throughout the night (if I wake up).

I’m feeling anxious about money and the state of the world at the moment, so I didn’t sleep very well last night. My mind is constantly thinking about my business and how to make sales as well as my money worries etc. It’s not great!

I have a small bowl of Special K for breakfast at around 9:30am, before spending the day working on my business. I manage to pre-plan the rest of my social media and emails, so I can concentrate on my part-time job for the next two days. I also manage to drink a bottle of water (550ml) gradually throughout the day.

My aim is to go to bed at 10pm or 11pm tonight, so I have dinner at 6pm – lamb chops, rice and sweetcorn. I also have a Perfectil multivitamin. 

“To finish off the day I have a cup of Darjeeling tea at 7pm with two whole wheat crackers.”

To finish off the day I have a cup of Darjeeling tea at 7pm with two whole wheat crackers. I eat these to line my stomach before taking my antidepressants. I’m also Type 2 diabetic, and I find this helps me to sleep better.

I spend some time scrolling on Instagram to make sure I’m up to date, before having a shower at 9pm. Afterwards, I spend a few minutes meditating and deep breathing before winding down with a bit of TV.

I set my alarm for 9:30am before turning the TV and lights off at 10:30pm. I wake up throughout the night at 12am, 2:45am and 5:40am to use the toilet.

Day 2

I didn’t get much sleep last night, and wake up feeling tired, but I have a later shift at work so lie in for a while. I get up, shower and have a cup of tea around 9:45am, before having breakfast spaghetti on toast at 10:30am.

I have a chicken wrap for lunch with lots of fresh salad, as well as a bottle of water. When I get back from work I have a bath before eating dinner at 8pm – salmon with rice and fresh corn with a multivitamin on the side.

I also have a cup of Darjeeling tea and water before bed, as well as doing a few minutes worth of stretching.

I do some work on social media while winding down with a bit of TV, before going to bed at 10:30pm. However, I’m still awake at 11:30pm. I have a 6am start tomorrow.

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Day 3

I wake up at 5:05am feeling really tired. I get up at 6am before having a shower and eating breakfast around 6:35am – today I’m having bagels with cream cheese and filleted chicken with coriander. I make an extra one for lunch at work.

I have half a cup of tea afterwards before doing my 35 minute walk to work while meditating. I start to feel tired at around 10:30am, but then I manage to perk up again.

When I finish work I walk home and have dinner at around 5:30pm – its the same as yesterday. I also have another bagel with fresh chicken fillets and coriander at 8:30pm.

I don’t have any tea tonight, so I turn off my TV at 9:24pm before winding down and trying to go to sleep at 10pm with an alarm set for 7:30am. However, I don’t end up falling asleep until 12am because I feel wide awake. Emotionally, I’m feeling calm and restful though.

“I wake up at 5:05am feeling really tired.”

Day 4

I wake up at 5am feeling wide awake. I’m working the early shift again today, so I try to go back to sleep for a little while but end up meditating before getting up at 7:30am.

I have bagels, cream cheese, chicken and fresh coriander leaves for breakfast again, before making another one for my lunch break.

I head out for work and get back at 4pm. I have a shower straight away, and then have some sandwiches, fresh ginger shots and a cup of tea at 4:30pm.

I’m feeling tired– it’s been a busy few days! However, I am feeling emotionally better than I was at the beginning of the week. At 8:30pm I have two more bagels before heading to bed at 10pm.

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Day 5

I wake up at 3:30am and then again at 5:30am. I feel calm today because it’s my day off, so I try to dose off again. However, I couldn’t.

I have brunch at 12pm – scrambled eggs – and then have roast lamb for dinner in the evening. I go to bed at 11pm and fall asleep naturally just after 12am. I’m feeling the best I have in a while.

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

Dr Nerina Ramlakhan, sleep expert and professional physiologist, says: “You feel overwhelmed by life and live with Type 2 Diabetes so getting good sleep and stopping those emotions from sabotaging your sleep is going to be key. 

Also, you’re likely in or are heading into the perimenopausal/menopausal years when sleep can become disrupted, and self-care is even more important. You have some great habits to keep yourself calm such as your regular meditation practice and a few more tweaks will make a big difference. 

Firstly, stop checking the time! This is going to stop you getting back into deep sleep – it’s possible to be more asleep than we think even when our eyes are open and we think we’re awake! I’d like to see you doubling your water intake and cutting out the Darjeeling – nice as it might be – before bed. It’s a lovely tea (my fave) but it’s caffeinated so not good before bed – this will keep you in shallow sleep and make those swirling thoughts worse.”

Sleep expert Dr Nerina Ramlakhan

Dr Nerina continues: “Ideally, you should be doing more exercise and ironically, even though you might feel you’re not getting enough sleep, I’m going to challenge you to find a different morning routine. When you wake early, get up and go for a walk – even 10 to 15 minutes – and then have breakfast straight afterwards. You’ll have to go to bed a bit earlier – around 9.30pm or 10pm – but you’ll likely be sleepier as you’ll have built up more of a sleep drive throughout the day.

“Finally, who are you talking to? Who is supporting you? Try to talk your worries out wherever possible instead of taking them to bed.” 

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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