“I rarely sleep through the night – how can I help myself get more 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 40-year-old operations consultant struggling with her sleep asks Dr Ramlakhan for some advice.

A little about me:

Age: 40

Occupation: operations consultant

Number of hours sleep you get each night: 4-6 hours

Do you measure your sleep in some way (e.g. using your phone or wearable): no, but I use my phone as an alarm clock.

How much water you drink on average per day: 3 litres, luckily I love it.

How much caffeine do you drink on average per day: I only have one cup of coffee a day at 6am. I’m not drinking any alcohol now (I’m currently pregnant with my third child,  due in February) and didn’t drink much before either.

Day 1

I finished work late after getting the boys to bed, so I get in bed at 11pm. I ended up waking up twice during the night and then get out of bed at 5am to do a gym session at 6am.

My day is spent doing the school run followed by a number of client meetings via Zoom. I manage to get dinner sorted and then do some work after the boys go to bed at 8pm.

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Day 2

I head to bed at 10pm and end up falling asleep around 11pm. However I wake up again at 3am as I’m feeling thirsty. I grab a drink and manage to get back to sleep for a short time, but find myself wide awake at 4am and end up getting up an hour before my 5am alarm.

I do some work before going to the gym at 6am and then diving into work.

In the evening I do some work before going to bed and manage to get lots done so go to bed feeling pretty happy with myself.

Day 3

I’m not doing the school run today so have my alarm set for 6am, but still end up waking up around 4am and find that I can’t get back to sleep.

In the end I just can’t stay in bed – if I’m awake and in bed I feel like I’m wasting time, so I get up and so some work before having my coffee around 6am.

I have a busy day with the kids as well as work and end up having a really late dinner (lots of cheese and cracked) which I don’t think helps with my sleep. In the end I manage to get to bed just before midnight.

“If I’m awake and in bed I feel like I’m wasting time.”

Day 4

I get up twice during the night because I can’t get comfortable, then find myself awake before my alarm goes off at 5am.

However, despite this undesirable start to the day, it ends up pretty chilled, and I manage to cook us all a nice dinner with lots of vegetables.

The boys fall asleep on time at 7pm and I head to bed then too.

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Day 5  

I wake up at 3:30am worrying. I’ve been thinking about work and the baby and I’m slightly worried about how I’m going to manage my own business and baby while dealing with my two sons.

Because of this worry session I can’t get back to sleep so I dive straight into my usual busy day.

When the evening comes I end up crashing with my husband – despite the fact that we were supposed to watch a movie, I end up falling asleep at 8:30pm on the sofa.

I wake up at 10pm as the credits are starting to find I’ve been covered by a blanket.

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

Dr Nerina Ramlakhan, sleep expert and professional physiologist, says: “You’re pregnant with your third child and clearly have a busy work life so you really need your sleep and my concern is that you might not be getting enough.

“So how can I help you? I strongly recommend that you stop checking the time during the night. You have a clock in her room which is much better than looking at your phone but it’s still not helpful. It is normal to wake during the night. The key thing is being able to get back to sleep easily.

“When you check the time, it brings you up into a more alert state of consciousness which makes it harder to drop down into a restful state. It is particularly unhelpful to check the time in the early hours as you are doing around 4am and then, naturally, you struggles to get back to sleep and so you sometimes get up to work.” 

Sleep expert Dr Nerina Ramlakhan

Dr Nerina continues: “Understandably, you are anxious about all you need to get done and how you’re going to cope with another child. I advise you to focus on your breathing when you wake, putting your left hand on your bump and right hand over your heart and breathing softly but deeply into your hands (particularly the one on your bump).

“Try and breathe your way back into sleep, or at least rest but avoid getting up if possible. You need the rest right now!

“Also, are you having breakfast? You need to check out my five non-negotiables for a good night’s sleep and start eating a nutrient-rich breakfast first thing in the morning.”

If you would like to take part in Stylist’s Sleep Diaries, please email us at [email protected] with ‘SLEEP DIARIES’ as the subject. We look forward to hearing from you.

Lead image design: Ami O’Callaghan

Other images: Getty

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