Why small moments of self-care could be the key to feeling more rested throughout the day

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 43-year-old nutritional therapist shares the self-care techniques she uses to help her cope with disrupted sleep.

A little about me:

Age: 43

Occupation: nutritional therapist

Number of hours sleep you get each night: 7 (broken)

Number of hours sleep you wish you got each night: 8 (unbroken)

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

How much water you drink on average per day: 2 litres

How much caffeine do you drink on average per day: I have 2 cups of tea a day maximum. I don’t drink coffee.

How much exercise you do on average per week: I do two boxing classes a week and walk every day. I sometimes do some strength training at home, too.

Day 1

My husband is going to a football match tonight so I’m planning on getting the small human to sleep on time, tidying up after dinner and getting cosy on the sofa with This Is Us.

The small human goes to sleep around 8pm, and I end up making muffins and chocolate balls while washing up after dinner (which just means I have more stuff to wash). I double cleanse my face, grab my kombucha, kettle chips, some hummus and a glass of water as well as my face oil and gua sha tool and then get comfy on the sofa at 9pm.

I’m hardly ever home alone so watch two episodes of This Is Us, but end up feeling tired towards the end of the second one. I then go brush my teeth, grab a Pukka relax tea and go to bed around 11pm. I can’t resist reading my book while having my tea – I’m reading Matt Haig’s How To Stop Time – but I can’t keep my eyes open so put it down and fall asleep quickly.

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The small human is being restless (I can hear him on the monitor) so I get up and put him back under the covers. I manage to get back to sleep quickly, but I wake up a few hours later with the small woman shouting that he needs a wee. I take him to the loo but he climbs into our bed afterwards, forcing me to hang over the side.

I don’t check my phone during my the night to see what time it is when he wakes up, as I don’t need to know and it’ll only make me countdown to when my alarm goes off.

Day 2

My alarm is set to a Spotify morning playlist so it’s a more gentle awakening. It goes off at 6:30am but I switch it off and next thing I know it’s 7:15am and I need to get up.

My morning is automatic. I set up the small human with a vegan croissant, oat milk and a Thomas The Tank Engine podcast.I always eat breakfast, and always within an hour of getting up. I start by grabbing a warm water with a dash of apple cider vinegar and getting my jade roller out of the freezer to give my face an icy roll before making porridge for me and the small human. I cook it with half a banana, cinnamon and half coconut milk, half water. We eat 10 minutes later after I add ground flax seed, date syrup and nut butter to mine.

I have a shower, get dressed and head out the door within 30 minutes. I am feeling my late night already.

“I cook porridge with half a banana, cinnamon and half coconut milk, half water.”

Friday night is usually my night to do what I want. The small human is asleep in bed by 8pm, and my husband orders an Indian takeout which we eat on the sofa watching Street Food Brazil. Afterwards he goes off to play Fifa while I watch a couple more episodes of This Is Us. I make myself a Pukka relax tea and head to bed around 11:30pm.

The small human wakes up during the night needing a wee and climbs into our bed straight after. He takes up a bit less space than last night. 

Day 3

The small human decides that he wants to get up at 6:20am but I ignore him and eventually my husband caves and gets up with him at 6:45am.

I stay in bed for another hour dozing. I get up at 7:45am, get dressed, sort my warm water and apple cider vinegar and grab a bowl of spelt muesli topped with flax seeds. I head out the door for my boxing class at 8:15am.

We’re out most of the day making the most of the warmth, but we’re back by around 7pm. The small human is getting narky so I feed him and get him to bed. My husband and I decide to order another Indian takeout which arrives around 9:30pm. We eat on the sofa watching a movie. I have two glasses of wine and a litre of water.

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I get into bed late – around 12:30am – and have a terrible sleep, which I knew would happen because alcohol always disrupts my sleep.

The small human stays in his own bed until 7:30am but wants to get up on his own, so I crawl back into bed. I quickly give up on this plan, however, as he keeps calling me. I’m up at 8:30am feeling wide awake even though I’ve had a crappy sleep.

Day 4

I make sweet potato pancakes, bacon and banana for breakfast – a Sunday ritual. My husband and the small human go off to football practice afterwards, and I go off to meditate for half an hour.

We’re out most of the day again, getting home around 6pm. My husband feeds the small human, bathes him and puts him to bed while I make dinner, which is two bean chilli, roast potatoes, avocado, hummus and green leaves.

We eat dinner in front of the TV for the third night in a row, which is rare for us. We watch another episode of Street Food Brazil which ends around 9:30pm, after which I hang up my washing and double cleanse my face.

I’m just getting into bed with my book when the small human wakes up, and he’s not happy. I end up bringing him into bed with us and it’s around 10:15pm when I switch the lights off. My sleep ends up being interrupted again as the small human needs a wee and a glass of water during the night.

“I’m just getting into bed with my book when the small human wakes up, and he’s not happy.”

Day 5

My Spotify morning playlist alarm goes off at 6:30am, but I ignore it and stay in bed until 7:15am. I leave the small human sleeping in our bed and go off to start the morning.

I start by drinking my warm water and apple cider vinegar, giving my face an icy roll and making some porridge. My eyes feel a bit gritty but I feel wide away considering my run of interrupted sleep. I drop the small human at school and go for a walk before starting work at 9:30am.

After work I get the small human to sleep by 7pm, and then have chilli leftovers with hummus, avocado, broccoli and tortilla chips. I tidy up and think about putting the TV on but decide not to.

I double cleanse my face and tuck myself up in bed by 9:30pm with my book. I read for half an hour before putting a deep sleep Spotify playlist on, and I set a sleep timer on my speaker for 40 minutes. I fall asleep quickly, not thinking about if I’ll get interrupted tonight or not (I do!). 

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

Dr Nerina Ramlakhan, sleep expert and professional physiologist, says: “The disrupted sleep caused by young children can be a nightmare, but you have a fantastically matter-of-fact attitude towards your situation. 

“You need radical self-care strategies when you’re dealing with chronic broken sleep and you display this beautifully with some good wind-down routines, exercise habits, nutrition (love the breakfasts!) and other ‘small’ things that can make a really big difference. For example, you make a point of not looking at your phone when you’re woken during the night by your ‘small human’. You realise this would just kick off an unhelpful countdown to morning.”

Sleep expert Dr Nerina Ramlakhan

Dr Nerina continues: “Of course, there’s always room for improvement; ideally, she needs to eat a bit earlier – around 7.30 or 8pm – and go to bed earlier. That sleep before midnight is vital especially as she knows she’s going to be woken later in the night. Otherwise, keep up the good work and ‘this too shall pass’.”

If you would like to take part in Stylist’s Sleep Diaries, please email [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

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