How the time you get out of bed impacts your energy levels (and what you can do about it)

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 commerce writer finds out why waking up earlier could help her to feel more awake during the day.

A little about me:

Age: 25

Occupation: commerce writer

Number of hours sleep you get each night: 7 hours

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

Do you measure your sleep in some way (e.g. using your phone or wearable): no

How much water do you drink on average per day: around 7 glasses

How much caffeine do you drink on average per day: around 4-6 cups of tea

How much exercise do you do on average per week: about 3-5 times a week for 30 mins each time

Day 1

I feel like I’m doing everything right today in terms of the habits I should be keeping up in order to sleep well – I go for a 5k walk and then have dinner around 6pm (vegetarian pasta), before enjoying a light snack at about 9pm (toast and peanut butter) and spending some time relaxing.

However, I’m feeling quite stressed (I’ve just returned home from a trip visiting family which was dominated by Covid-19 chaos), and find myself waking up several times throughout the night.

When I wake up at 2am I also find it hard to get back to sleep, so spend some time on my phone before I get sleepy again and nod off around 3:30am. Luckily I’m able to sleep in until 10am because I’m off work today, but I wake feeling pretty tired.

“I’m able to sleep in until 10am because I’m off work today, but I wake feeling pretty tired.”

Day 2

I decide to have a chill day after the disruption of last night’s sleep, so use the time to watch some TV before going on a 5k run.

When I get back I follow my usual evening routine – I eat an early dinner around 6pm (roast chicken, vegetables and potatoes) and then have a snack around 9pm (toast with peanut butter) before getting into bed at 10pm. I spend the next two hours watching TV and scrolling on my phone, before trying to go to sleep at midnight. 

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I feel a lot calmer now I’m back into a routine, and I sleep really well. I wake up feeling refreshed at 8am before logging into work for my first day back.

Day 3

My first day back goes well, and I manage to head out for a 3k run at lunchtime – I always feel less anxious in the evenings when I’ve done exercise during the day. After finishing work earlier than usual I have dinner at 6pm (pasta) before enjoying a glass of wine and some toast at around 9pm. 

Again, I get into bed around 10pm – tonight, I decide to spend some time reading. I do that for about an hour and a half before switching off the lights at 11:30pm.

I have the best sleep I’ve had in a while – I manage to sleep almost straight through the night from around 12:30pm until 8:30am.

I get up later at this time of year because I find it hard to wake up when it’s dark and miserable outside, but I force myself to get out of bed and manage to fit in a short walk after breakfast before I start work at 9:30am.

“My first day back goes well, and I manage to head out for a 3k run at lunchtime – I always feel less anxious in the evenings when I’ve done exercise during the day.”

Day 4

I have a really busy day at work (including lots of Zoom meetings) and barely manage to get outside at lunch (I go for a quick 10 minute walk), so I feel quite drained and exhausted by the time I finish at 6pm.

I pour myself a glass of wine to unwind while I eat dinner and then get into bed around 9pm to read my book and scroll on my phone.

I switch the lights off around midnight as usual and manage to sleep through the night. I wake up feeling pretty calm around 10am.

Day 5

It’s the first day of my weekend today so I wake up feeling pretty relaxed. I decide to head out for a 10k run – it’s my first longer-distance run for a long time and while I feel really exhausted afterwards, I expect to sleep really well tonight after so much exercise.

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I follow my usual evening routine and have an early dinner around 6pm (salmon, rice and vegetables) followed by a piece of toast at 9pm. I also have a glass of wine while I watch some TV, before heading to bed around 11:30pm.

Despite all the exercise I did this morning I’m very restless, and struggle to get my body and mind to relax. It’s almost like I can’t get my mind or body to slow down.

I sleep for short periods of time throughout the night and end up waking pretty regularly, so I feel as if I haven’t had any deep sleep by the time I wake up at 9:30am. I’m feeling tired today.

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

Dr Nerina Ramlakhan, sleep expert and professional physiologist, says: “There’s some good stuff going on here and some not so good stuff but I think she should be encouraged because, with a few tweaks, she should be able to get that deep restorative sleep that she clearly wants.

“I like that she values her sleep and thinks about what might affect it positively – the exercise, eating earlier – all great. However, her caffeine intake is too high and she’s not getting away with it which is why her sleep is fitful and restless. Ideally, she needs to halve her intake, with no caffeine after 2pm. Also, she needs to stop looking at the time when she wakes up. Waking during the night is entirely normal and we’d probably be extinct as a species if we didn’t.”

Sleep expert Dr Nerina Ramlakhan

Dr Nerina continues: “There’s too much scrolling before bedtime and lights out is happening far too late. If she can get into the habit of switching off and turning the lights off at around 10-10.30pm she will find her sleep to be much more restorative and her energy levels better the next day.

“Waking up a tad earlier around 7- 7.30am during the week would also be better for her daytime energy. When we oversleep past this time, we’re more likely to experience a sort of hangover effect called sleep inertia. This can make us feel sluggish, fatigued and even a bit down. Off to bed earlier and up sooner – as granny would say!”

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