Around 30% of adults in the US don’t get enough sleep or good enough sleep. If you’re one of them, you’d probably like to fix it. In order to get better, longer, and deeper sleep, you’ll need to know why you’re not getting the sleep you need. There are many factors that come into play. How can you know what’s really going on? By keeping a sleep diary!
What is a Sleep Diary?
A sleep diary is an important tool for evaluating a person’s sleep. Basically, a sleep diary is simply a record of important sleep-related information that you write down on a daily basis. To keep the most accurate sleep diary, fill it out carefully every day. Many sleep diaries contain one short section to complete in the morning and another in the evening. Whatever you think yours should include is up to you. Although not all sleep diaries are identical, they commonly include details about:
#1 Bedtime and/or lights-out time
#2 Wake-up time
#3 How long it takes to fall asleep (Am I spending significant time lying in bed without being able to fall asleep?)
#4 The number and duration of sleep interruptions (Do I wake up more than once a night to use the restroom? Do I wake up to roll over a lot?)
#5 The number and duration of daytime naps (Am I taking naps that are too long or too late in the day that could be affecting my nighttime sleep?)
#6 Your feelings regarding sleep quality from the night before (Is my sleep satisfying? Do I feel drowsy during the day?)
#7 Consumption of alcohol, caffeine, and late-night meals
#8 Daily medications
#9 Daily exercise, including what, how long, and when (Does yoga in the morning help but running at night make it harder to fall asleep?)
Sleep diaries are also called sleep journals or sleep logs. Whatever you want to call your efforts to jot down your sleep habits is up to you!
Why Should You Keep A Sleep Diary?
For one, it will give you a better idea of your sleep patterns and habits. Sometimes your sleep troubles aren't actually the result of a sleep disorder like Insomnia, but simply bad habits that are easy to correct. Drinking too much caffeine late into the evening, exercising right before bedtime, or just having bad sleep hygiene in general can keep you from sleeping well. It’s very possible that you don’t realize the mistakes you are making until you need to write them down. Over the course of keeping your diary, you’ll begin to notice a pattern. If the problem could be corrected by your own choices, make changes and see how your next week goes. Hopefully, there will be a noticeable improvement to your sleep. You may be able to correct the behavior yourself and avoid a trip to the doctor and prescription medicine.
How Long Should You Keep a Sleep Diary?
To learn what's keeping you up at night and robbing you of your ability to wake up healthy, happy, and well-rested, do a little on-paper reflection for at least two weeks. You may be surprised by what you learn! Reviewing this information after a few weeks may reveal some unexpected sleep barriers. For instance, you may discover you’re not sleeping well on the nights you have a few glasses of wine and a heavy dinner at 8 pm. You may find you sleep better on the nights after you exercise, as long as the workout is done in the morning. It’s possible you’re going to bed later than you realize. Your sleep diary will tell you many pieces of information you need to know.
What if You don’t See Improvements?
Let’s say you've kept the diary for a few weeks, made changes in your sleep habits, but still haven't seen the positive results you were hoping for. You may want to make an appointment with your primary care physician or a sleep specialist for a consultation and bring your sleep diary. This can be a valuable resource for the medical professional to aid in a diagnosis.
It’s also quite possible that you need to better outfit your bedroom to become a sleep oasis. It could be as simple as the fact that you’re trying to sleep on an old, lumpy mattress! You may need a new mattress that is both comfortable and supportive. High-quality latex pillows and an adjustable power base foundation could help, particularly if you’re feeling restless at night and tossing and turning. For many people, a more comfortable bed is the missing piece to their sleepless nights puzzle.
Getting enough quality sleep every night can help you bounce back after an illness, improve both emotional and physical health, increase your performance at work, make you a better partner and friend, and so much more. Sleep is vital for all aspects of our daily lives! If you’re not sleeping well right now, it’s time to figure out why. Keeping a sleep diary is the first step.