Ever wondered what alcohol does to your sleep?

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 29-year-old brand editor wonders why she never wakes up feeling refreshed.

A little about me:

Age: 29

Occupation: brand editor

Number of hours sleep you get each night: seven and a half

Number of hours sleep you wish you got each night: eight or nine (I love sleep!)

Any officially diagnosed sleep-related problems: no

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

How much exercise I do on average per week: I do around 5,500 steps per day with a longer 15,000 step walk at the weekend.

Day 1

I went to a three-day long wedding in Scotland over the weekend – it was incredible, but I drank far too much every day. I also shared a room with my friend who has a three-month-old baby, so we were awake by 5.30am every morning. As a result, by Sunday evening I feel very, very groggy and gross. I make this worse by ordering a pizza and sitting on the sofa all evening as soon as I get back from the flight. I go to bed later than I should, at around 11.30pm, and crash out immediately, but I still feel a bit ropey in the morning.

Day 2

I wake up at 5.30am as I’m currently commuting to a new job, and it takes around two hours to get there. I get home at 8pm and feel disappointed that my partner has already eaten, so I order another pizza. It sounds bad, but a new sourdough place has opened just down the road and I’m addicted to it. My days also feel really long at the moment, so I just can’t face cooking.

Sleep Diaries: my commute to work is two hours long.

We sit on the sofa all evening watching an old TV show and end up getting into bed too late again – this time around midnight. I scroll on my phone for ages, it’s a bad habit I have, and then drop off to sleep. I sleep really soundly (as always, to be honest) but feel pretty crap and tired in the morning. 

Day 3

Today, I endeavour to do better.

I get home a little earlier than yesterday, at around 7.30pm, and cook us a meal inspired by one I had at the wedding. I’m a rubbish cook, but I give chicken thighs with chillies and grapes, rosemary roasted potatoes and pomegranate and rocket salad with goat’s cheese a go, and actually it’s not bad. I would have loved to have gone on a walk since the evenings are so long, but by the time I’ve cooked and we’ve eaten, it’s 9.30pm. We decide to get straight into bed and skip TV. I fall asleep at around 10pm. 

Day 4

I feel slightly better this morning, but one decent night’s sleep doesn’t make up for the others.

Sleep Diaries: I used to aim to do 12,000 steps per day.

It feels hectic travelling into London every day, but my step count isn’t as high as it should be. While I was working at home last year, I would attempt to do 12,000 steps every day. So I tell my partner to eat without me and I get some sushi to eat on the train home (which feels pretty sad but oh well), which means that when I arrive at 8pm we can go straight on a walk. The walk is around 8,000 steps and features a pretty decent hill which looks out to the countryside, so I feel good about this. We try and go to sleep at a decent time and get into bed around 10.30pm and I fall asleep quite quickly. 

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Day 5

After a long, long day at work, I ask my partner if we can go out for dinner. We have three drinks each and a main meal, getting home around 9.30pm. We’re both shattered and I feel drained after getting up early every day this week. There are jobs to be done but we get into bed at around 10pm but my partner reads until 11.30pm so I don’t get to sleep properly. Waking up in the morning feels really tough – I’m unsure if I have a fuzzy head or I’m just tired at the end of the week. I remember that I didn’t drink any water before bed which was probably a bad move. I snooze until 6.30am and have to run for my train – the first time I’ve done that since I started my new job.

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

Dr Nerina Ramlakhan, sleep expert and professional physiologist, says: “You’re a good sleeper, but I suspect that your sleep isn’t as restorative as it could be.

“Some of this might be down to your alcohol consumption. A study from the Sleep Foundation has found that, while alcohol has sedative effects that can induce feelings of relaxation and sleepiness, its consumption has been linked to poor sleep quality and duration.

“Clearly, however, this isn’t your usual sort of week. There won’t always be a wedding to go to, and there won’t always be a champagne reception to enjoy – and you do a good job of having alcohol-free (or detox) days during the week.”

Dr Nerina continues: “With that in mind, I vote that you ramp up your protein intake, as you’re clearly very tired from your new job. Plus, those additional early starts and commuting will start to take its toll, so making sure you’re having something like eggs or nut butter for breakfast is a good way to boost your energy levels.

“While we’re on the subject of commuting, do you take a good multivitamin? It might be worth it if not; now that we’re all getting back out there again after lockdown, we need every trick in the book to ensure that it doesn’t take its toll on us as we’ve become very used to being in our own safe spaces all the time.”

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To conclude, Dr Nerina says: “Finally, I love that you’re aware of your walking and step count, it’s a great exercise. I wonder, though, if it might be worth making the most of the weekends and incorporating a routine to help build strength and flexibility? Not only will it give you an endorphin boost, but there is also strong evidence to suggest muscle-strengthening exercise is associated with better sleep quality. It’s a win win!”

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

Images: Getty/Dr Nerina Ramlakhan

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