Feel tired all the time? Here’s why more sleep isn’t always the answer

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 26-year-old account manager finds out which of her habits could be contributing to her feelings of tiredness in the day.

A little about me:

Age: 26

Occupation: digital PR account manager

Number of hours sleep you get each night: approximately 8

Number of hours sleep you wish you got each night: 8+

Do you grind your teeth/have nightmares: occasional nightmares

How much water do you drink on average per week: 4+ litres

How much exercise do you do on average per week: once or twice in the gym but I do a lot of walking every day (around 1 hour)

Day 1

I’m celebrating so I have a glass of wine and some sourdough pizza around 9pm and watch some TV before bed. I then clean my face, brush my teeth and get ready for bed around 11pm. I set my alarm for 7am and go straight to sleep. I don’t struggle to sleep, but wake up once in the night to get a drink of water.

I wake up at 6.55am (about five minutes before my alarm), but I think that’s due to my daylight alarm clock. I then snooze for about 15-20 minutes and get out of bed at 7.25am. 

I wake up a little tired, but nothing too crazy. I get up, take my vitamins and then jump in the shower. I leave the house at 8am with a cup of tea to drink on the walk to the train station. I eat a cereal bar around 10.15am. 

“I leave the house at 8am with a cup of tea to drink on the walk to the train station.”

Day 2

I have my dinner and a glass of wine at around 8.30pm while catching up on my TV and work at the same time. I then get ready for bed and get into bed around 9.45pm. I scroll on my phone until 10.30pm when I finally go to sleep.

I wake up initially at 6.30am, but stay asleep until my alarm at 7am and get out of bed at 7.20am. I shower and get ready for the day quite quickly and drink my morning tea on the way to the train station as usual. I don’t have time for breakfast but I’m not too hungry so I decide to have a mid-morning snack when I get into work. 

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Day 3

I eat dinner out (sea bass and vegetables in a red wine sauce) around 7pm and don’t get home until 9pm. I go to sleep around 12pm tonight which is pretty late for me.I set my alarm for 6.40am and sleep okay.

I wake up at around 7.30am after multiple snoozes as I feel exhausted. I get up and shower and make myself a cup of tea. I feel okay once I’m up and I’m not too tired. I work from home on a Friday so make myself some breakfast around 11am.

“I wake up at around 7.30am in the end after multiple snoozes as I feel exhausted.”

Day 4

We eat dinner (homemade chicken curry) around 9.30pm and although we ate quite late, it was a light dinner so I don’t feel too full afterwards. We eat while catching up with family so afterwards we have some drinks and chat until we go to bed. We end up heading up quite late, around 1am.

I wake up initially at 7am and go downstairs to get a drink before falling asleep again until about 9am. I shower and get ready before having brunch around 12pm.

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Day 5

I get home quite late after a long journey, around 10pm. I don’t do much much before bed, just clean my face and get ready to sleep. I get into bed about 10.30am and am probably asleep by 11pm.

I set my alarm for 7am but snooze until 7.20am, which means I’m in a bit of a rush to get out of the house. I leave at 8am, my usual time. I have a banana for breakfast around 10am. 

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

Dr Nerina Ramlakhan, sleep expert and professional physiologist, says: “You are getting enough sleep in terms of hours but you could be feeling so much better if you follow my 5 non-negotiables for getting better sleep. I think you’re stuck in a bit of a fatigue cycle which is why you’re pressing the snooze button in the mornings and then getting out of bed in a rush. 

“You need to start eating breakfast in the morning – ideally within 45 mins of getting up. This will give you more energy, stop you snoozing and even improve your sleep quality. You might then find the energy and inclination to do a bit more exercise. Walking every day is great but, at your age, you need more vigorous exercise to build strength, stamina and give you the energy that you deserve to have.”

Sleep expert Dr Nerina Ramlakhan

Dr Nerina continues: “Also – and I don’t get many opportunities to say this – why are you drinking so much water? Four litres a day is a lot of water for someone who lives in this country and doesn’t exercise intensely! It is rare but drinking too much water can cause hyponatremia due to over-dilution of the blood leading to low sodium levels – do you really need to drink so much water?”

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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