How to get your sleep back on track after a holiday, according to an expert

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 42-year-old wellness coach with an excellent sleep routine learns how to make the transition between home and holiday smooth.

A little about me:

Age: 42

Occupation: women’s wellness and habit change coach

Number of hours sleep you get each night: 7-8

Number of hours sleep you wish you got each night: 9 (or as many as possible!)

Do you measure your sleep in some way? no

How much water do you drink on average per week: 1-1.5 litres

How much exercise do you do on average per week: 30 minutes a day

Day 1

Today is our first day of our mini-break in Croyde in our campervan. It’s a place we love as a family because there’s lots of lovely food, fresh air and the sea!

We make homemade pizzas on our portable BBQ for tea and walk to Baggy Point (45 mins) when we’ve finished. It’s so lovely to see the sunset and to get some fresh air after a long drive. I feel really calm and happy (despite the kids moaning on the walk!).

It’s a cool and fresh evening so we wrap up in hoodies. On the way back we stop at a small cafe/bar and I have a Feel Good drink which is fruity sparkling water.

When we get back to the campsite around 9.30pm, we get ready for bed and the girls read for a while and chat! By the time everyone has settled its lights-off at 10.15pm. I get to sleep quickly but wake up throughout the night as the bed isn’t that comfortable! I don’t set an alarm.

“It’s so lovely to see the sunset and to get some fresh air after a long drive.”

Day 2

I wake up around 8am. The van is lovely and warm but outside is grey and overcast (a welcome relief after the heatwave). I feel rested but tired (and in need of the loo).

We get up and I have a bacon bagel from the onsite café, it’s delicious and something I wouldn’t normally eat at home. I love being in the campervan but I do feel stressed as it’s a small space for four people (my girls are 11 and 9). I end up tidying lots and moving sleeping bags/clothes/plates etc around.

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We head to the beach and my husband and kids have a paddle and swim. It starts to get cold and wet so we head back to the van to watch a movie. I have a 30 minute power nap!

We grab pulled pork, rice and salad from the onsite café for dinner, have a walk on the beach for around 30 minutes and head to bed as it feels damp and there’s a storm coming. Bedtime is around 9.30pm as it’s colder with lights out at 10pm. I sleep well and don’t wake up throughout the night. I don’t set an alarm.

Day 3

Today is our final day of holiday so we are up early. Packing up can be a bit stressful as we need to be offsite by 10.30am; we are up and dressed by 9.30am so it’s a quick turnaround!

I have some M&S sugar free museli with oat milk to keep me going and then a smoothie bowl around 11am as a brunch. We spend the day at the beach, body boarding and enjoying the sunshine!

We don’t get home until late – it’s 7pm when we walk through the door. I’m really tired but I start emptying the van (and all the mess).

I make tacos with some pulled beef from M&S for dinner, with fresh tomatoes, picked onion, avocado and sour cream. We don’t eat until 8.30pm, after which I have a shower and fall into bed at 9.30pm. I’m so tired and happy to be in my bed (with fresh sheets). I sleep really well but wake up groggy as it’s the best sleep of the week.

“I make tacos with some pulled beef from M&S for dinner, with fresh tomatoes, picked onion, avocado and sour cream.”

Day 4

When I’m at home, I try to get up and walk every day for 30 minutes first thing in the morning. Today I wake up early around 7am, but feel too tired to get my trainers on and head out even though I want to. Instead, I lay in bed scrolling on my phone, shopping for a coastal getaway which I can’t afford.

We meet friends in the afternoon before having dinner at 8pm, which is some quick pizza. I have a long hot bath at 9pm when the kids go to bed and lie there for an hour.

After I get into my PJ’s and happily get into bed. I’m feeling really tired but I’ve had a gorgeous and happy day, so I go to sleep quickly.

Day 5

I wake up feeling refreshed, have a quick breakfast and head out for a six mile walk by myself at 9am. I love the summer holidays but it’s a real juggle with work and the kids. It’s very hot so I drink loads and stop for break and some snacks!

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When I get home we have a late lunch and a lazy afternoon. Dinner is a quick one, salmon risotto with a glass of rose. Wine always impacts my sleep but it’s such a rare treat.

I have a long bath at 9pm when the kids go to bed. I don’t sleep as well as I have done and toss and turn a little (I blame the wine).

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

Dr Nerina Ramlakhan, sleep expert and professional physiologist, says: “What can I say? You have great habits and that’s really important given the work you do! You’re active, eat a healthy balanced diet, don’t seem to overload on caffeine or alcohol and even have power naps. Most importantly, you seem to listen to your body and don’t push yourself to do things – even if they are healthy – when you need more rest.

“The rhythm of your days when you and your family were on the move was perfect – early and restful nights even though you were in a cramped campervan. We’re still in the tail end of summer and many people are camping, glamping and enjoying the great outdoors and festival life. Sleep might not be ideal when you’re doing this but the benefits of changing up routines and getting out into nature by far outweigh the disadvantages.”

Sleep expert Dr Nerina Ramlakhan

Dr Nerina continues: “My advice when you’re out and about like this is to not fixate too much on how much sleep you’re getting but to put the spotlight on ‘resting’. If you’re in a tent and waking early with dawn light and chorus, lie there, rest and enjoy – or treat yourself to the right kit. Good eye masks, ear plugs and black-out tents can make the world of difference.”

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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