“How can I stop stress impacting my sleep?”

Written by Kayleigh Dray

Kayleigh Dray is Stylist’s digital editor-at-large. Her specialist topics include comic books, films, TV and feminism. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends.

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 filing these diaries to sleep expert Dr Nerina Ramlakhan for analysis.  

In this week’s Sleep Diaries, a 32-year-old woman admits she’s feeling the pressure of working two jobs.

A little about me:

  • Age: 32
  • Occupation: Remote Service Co-Ordinator / Bartender
  • Number of hours sleep I get each night: 7
  • Number of hours sleep I wish I got each night: 8
  • Any officially diagnosed sleep-related problems: No
  • How much water I drink on average per day: 2,500ml minimum/
  • How much exercise I do on average per week: 3 days a week, plus walks.

Day 1

My alarm goes off at 5:50am, but I keep hitting snooze until about 6:20am. When I finally wake up, I turn on my laptop in the office and then head into the shower. 

Today is a rest day from my workout plan and I still have some food left over from the weekend so I have that for breakfast, make my coffee and start my day. Well, I officially start at 8am but was logged on and doing stuff at work from about 7:45am, so… yeah.

I try to have a better lunch of pasta to get my carb intake up, and drink some water (I always aim to have a minimum of three pints of water drunk before I finish work). Today is very stressful day, and I miss parts of my final break due to I.T. outages within the company. 

I finish work at 4pm and go out for a walk to try and reduce my stress levels. I swing by the the local shop to pick up stuff for dinner, and make burgers at around 7pm.

It’s a ‘rest day’ for me, so I don’t have to workout. Instead, I go upstairs to bed around 9pm, stay up for a bit playing videogames until about 9:30pm, and then finally put my head on the pillow. I’m pretty quick to fall asleep, but suddenly start myself awake at about 1030pm. Maybe it’s the wind? Thankfully, I nod off again pretty quickly.

Day 2

I wake up at 5:05am when my alarm goes off, and immediately hit snooze. Honestly, snoozing makes me feel so much better than getting up right away!

About 40 minutes later, I jump out of bed, turn on my laptop in the office, and quickly shower. Mentally, I’m preparing for a stress-filled morning as I am on the sickness shift at work.

I have a quick breakfast of cereal and yogurt, make a black coffee and am sitting at my desk by 6:30am. I don’t start officially till 7am but I always like to have time to slowly ease myself into the day.

My lunch is earlier than normal due to the shift I am on, but I have the same pasta as yesterday and continue with my water intake throughout the day. It is another stressful day at work and I can feel my shoulders slowly tightening as my 3pm clock-off time comes and goes: I end up staying late to tidy up some loose ends.

Rather than my planned HIIT workout, I take myself on a nice 2.5km walk into town. Then, once this is finished, I settled into watching tv and finishing off my cross stitch, before having burgers for dinner (yes again) at 7pm.

By 8:40pm, I’m back up in bed researching things on my laptop. But this doesn’t last long: I’m asleep by 9:15pm without any interruptions.

Day 3

My alarm is set for 6am and I snooze naughtily for an hour. As I’m breakfasting alone today, I opt for toast and peanut butter, and then take it up to my office for 7.30am. 

Starting 30 minutes early means that work is less stressful, but I can feel the build up of the last couple of days in my shoulders. I up my water intake today subconsciously, as clearly my body needs it, and have another bowl of pasta for lunch (I know, what’s new?).

I finish work at 4pm today and stay up in the office for a bit sorting out things. My housemate and I then head out for a walk, treat ourselves to a dinner of fish and chips, and then head home. I’m back in bed by 9pm, but stay up watching TV for a while.

When I finally nod off, I sleep through the night.

Day 4

I wake up naturally at 7am and keep a later alarm on so I can go back to sleep: I’m on the 10am shift today. 

I end up getting out of bed at 8:30am, and the morning goes the same as usual. Due to being on the later shift, I have a later lunch (still pasta), and then work through until 6pm.

By the time my shift is over, my eyes are so tired that I crawl into bed at 8.30pm. I’m fast asleep about 45 minutes later, but am woken up by a call at about 10:45pm.

I nod off, but am randomly woken at 4.15am. Must be bin day.

Day 5

My alarm goes off at 6am but yet again I wake up groggy, so I snooze for another hour. 

As I am working two jobs today, I know my food intake will be all over the place, so I have a bagel and peanut butter with my coffee, and then make sure I break for a lunch of couscous and veggies.

I eat my dinner on my final break from my day job, before clocking off at 4pm and racing over to the pub to start just before 5pm. 

It’s a late one, and I work through until midnight. I walk home, using the time to catch up with my parents on the phone, and get into bed for 1am.

I sleep through the night until my body wakes me up at 7am without an alarm. Still tired, though!

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

Dr Nerina Ramlakhan, sleep expert and professional physiologist, says: “It sounds like you’re under a lot of stress, so I would advise that you take regular breaks throughout the day to breathe consciously, stretch out your shoulders and shake off the stress to avoid the build up.

“You are clearly very conscientious so mayberewarding yourself with a massage every now and then would be a good thing, too.”

Dr Nerina adds: “You have no obvious sleep issues, but could tap into more energy if you avoid sleep-inducing carbs for lunch (save the pasta for dinner) and try to eat some protein-filled food instead.

“Also, the National Sleep Foundation recommends that you should stop using electronic devices, like your smartphone, at least 30 minutes before bedtime, as the blue light can affect your internal body clock and throw off your circadian rhythm. Give it a try, and it may help you get a deeper, more restorative sleep.”

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.

Dr Nerina Ramlakhan is a renowned physiologist and sleep expert and regularly hosts sleep programmes and workshops. She is the bestselling author of several books about sleep, including The Little Book of Sleep: The Art of Natural Sleep (Gaia, 2018).

Lead image design: Ami O’Callaghan

Images: Getty

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