“My busy social life makes it hard to maintain a sleep schedule – what should I do?”

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 25-year-old account manager explores how to improve her sleep while managing a busy social life.

A little about me:

Age: 25

Occupation: account manager 

Number of hours sleep you get each night: 6-7 hours

Number of hours sleep you wish you got each night: 9 hours 

Do you grind your teeth/have nightmares: I often have vivid dreams which I believe are caused by my antidepressants, which I take to manage my OCD. 

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

How much caffeine do you drink on average per day: I don’t drink coffee (except decaf) and have one or two teas a day (either breakfast tea or green tea).

How much exercise do you do on average per week: I play netball one night a week and run/go to the gym at least once a week (I try to do more). I also walk quite a bit when I go into the office on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.  

Day 1

Last night I had a big social with work and had a few glasses of wine, so I’m feeling a little hungover. I’m woken up by my sunrise alarm clock at 7:30am which definitely helps to start the day a little more slowly.

Once I’m at my desk at 9am I start the day with a big bowl of porridge with raspberries and golden syrup and lots of water. When I stop for lunch I have beans on toast with cheese grated on the top which definitely perks me up a little bit. I also finally manage to have a shower, whoops. 

Later a friend comes round and I cook dinner for her and my flatmate – katsu curry with rice and broccoli. We also have a mini cheesecake which we share between the three of us.

Because I’m shattered I head to bed around 10pm and I’m asleep by 10:30pm. 

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Day 2

It’s the first day of the weekend and I’m feeling absolutely shattered, so I decide to have a slow day doing bits around the house. I wake up around 10:30am and eat breakfast (porridge) before having a shower and getting dressed into comfy clothes.

My room is an absolute mess at the moment so I tackle that for most of the morning and early afternoon, sorting different bits and pieces and changing my bedsheets. I stop at 2:30pm because I realise I haven’t had lunch – I have a microwave golden vegetable rice packet. I then get back to doing some tidying around the house. 

By the time that’s done I’m absolutely knackered, so I start to cook dinner – a chickpea and spinach curry with rice and naan bread. I also have a little cheesecake pot for pudding.

I’m feeling pretty rundown because I’ve been out three nights this week so I decide to get into bed after dinner at 7:30pm with my electric blanket on and watch a couple of episodes of a TV show. I finish those around 9:45pm and start to get ready for bed. I’m asleep by 10:30pm. 

“I’m feeling pretty rundown so I decide to get into bed after dinner at 7:30pm with my electric blanket on and watch a couple of episodes of a TV show.”

Day 3

I’m feeling pretty chill after my slow night last night and allow myself to sleep in a bit – I wake up at 9am with my sunrise alarm clock and it’s approaching 10am when I get out of bed and my sister comes round for a coffee. 

I have a slow breakfast a bit later of pancakes (my flatmate was cooking) with coffee and orange juice before having a shower and doing a couple of chores around the house.

I stop for lunch around 1:30pm and have some tomato soup with toast before heading out to meet a few friends for some birthday drinks at 3pm.

We end up staying at the pub all afternoon and order a couple of rounds of chips before going on to another bar. It’s about 9:30pm when I leave. I get home and into bed at around 10:50pm – it was a long journey!

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Day 4

I’m back to work today after the weekend, and after all my socialising yesterday I’m feeling pretty shattered. However, I manage to get myself into gear pretty quickly after I wake up at 8:30am with my sunrise alarm clock and have a quick shower before settling down at my desk.

I have some almond milk porridge with blueberries and golden syrup for breakfast alongside lots of water to rehydrate after all the alcohol I consumed yesterday.

Once lunch arrives I have a pizza, which I eat at my desk while watching a TV show. I then continue straight on into my afternoon. 

I finish perfectly on time and head over to my sister’s house for a roast dinner – chicken. We then head to the pub for a pub quiz with her boyfriend and a few of my mates. I have two glasses of wine and we come second in the quiz so end up having a celebratory shot.

When we get back my flatmate and some of my friends play a game – I decide to stop playing at 11:00pm so I can actually get some sleep. I get ready for bed pretty quickly and manage to switch my lights off as the clock approaches midnight.

“My sister and I head to the pub for a pub quiz with her boyfriend and a few of my mates.”

Day 5

I set my sunrise alarm clock for 7:30am but wake up before my alarm – this time its 7:25am. However, I end up lounging in bed for a whole hour before I can face getting up. I’m working from home today and have no groceries in until the supermarket delivery comes later, so I decide to order breakfast from a local café – an egg and bacon roll and a coffee.

I drink two glasses of water as I work through the morning and then stop for lunch. I have some leftover ginger, coconut and lime chicken stew with basmati rice. I then bring the groceries in and put them all away which takes 15 minutes.  

I head back to work with a green tea and a handful of pringles (the benefits of having a grocery order arrive) as well as a full glass of water. Work isn’t too stressful today so I spend the afternoon feeling pretty good – I fill up my water once.

Tonight, I have netball so I cook dinner early (around 6:30pm) – squash and serrano ham linguine – before heading to my match for 8:20pm. It’s my friend’s birthday today so when I get back at 9pm a couple of friends come round and we celebrate with a cake and a game.

I get my lunch ready for work tomorrow before heading to bed around 11pm. I’m asleep by 11:30pm and my alarm is set for 6:30am tomorrow.  

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

Dr Nerina Ramlakhan, sleep expert and professional physiologist, says: “’You are at the age where, understandably, sleep might take a backseat to your social life. However, you also have some great habits including low caffeine, regular exercise, good hydration and I like your sunrise alarm clock – excellent for gentle morning starts. 

“If you are regularly taking slices off your sleep due to socialising, nothing can really replace that particular type of restorative sleep that you get before midnight. The key is to make sure that your lifestyle habits are as good as they can be – which you seem to do.”

Sleep expert Dr Nerina Ramlakhan

Dr Nerina continues: “I like that you play a bit of catch-up at the weekends with early nights to make up for the late ones. Including high-quality protein in your breakfast and lunch could help your energy levels and exercise performance as both meals seem to be very carb heavy. 

“Additionally, given your OCD, taking up some form of meditation or gentle breathing practice could really help overall wellbeing and sleep, as well as loosening your grip on your relationship with control.”

If you would like to take part in Stylist’s Sleep Diaries, please email [email protected] with your age, 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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