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Many people have troubles getting enough quality sleep at night. Nowadays, sleep problems are more common than in the past, which is an understandable consequence of a modern way of life. In today’s 24/7 society sleep issues are very widespread. However, they can have an adverse impact on our health and the quality of our lives. We are all aware that sleep is one of the basic human needs, but most of us don’t pay enough attention to it and underestimate its importance. We can’t expect to be healthy, full of energy, productive, motivated, and more, if we don’t get enough shut-eye.
In case you have troubles sleeping, but can’t seem to figure out what the cause of these problems is, you should consider keeping a sleep diary. It is an excellent way to track your quality of sleep and habits that may have an impact on your ability to get a decent amount of rest. If you track your habits and see how they influence your duration and quality of shut-eye, you will figure out if you need to make any changes to your lifestyle in order to sleep better at night.
Keeping a sleep diary can help you figure out what is keeping you awake. Many people can’t seem to fall asleep, or they wake up frequently at night because of the bad habits, such as drinking too much water, eating heavy meals in the evening, drinking coffee or other caffeinated beverages before going to bed, skipping exercises, and more. A sleep diary helps you record information about your sleeping and waking times, sleep quality, and more, over the course of a few weeks, depending on you. It can help you pinpoint if you are waking up or falling asleep at a similar time, what you did during the day, what you consumed when it comes to food and beverages, and more. Over the period of a few weeks, you will be able to notice a pattern, if there is any, between your habits and sleep. As soon as you notice what causes your sleep issues, you will be able to do something about it.
Keeping a sleep diary is an excellent way of getting insight into your sleep patterns and problems. You should start keeping it as soon as you realize that you have a sleep issue. It can also help you later if you decide to visit a doctor, as having evidence of your sleep-wake pattern can assist in giving the right diagnosis and treatment.
Things to Record in Your Sleep Diary
If you have troubles sleeping, information from your sleep diary can help both you and your doctor figure out what is wrong with you. It can contain basic information such as when you went to sleep and when you woke up, or more detailed information as well. Here are some things that you should consider writing in your sleep diary:
- When you went to bed
- After how long you fell asleep
- When you woke up
- When you got out of bed
- Duration of sleep
- Quality of sleep
- If you woke up by an alarm clock, spontaneously, or because of a different disturbance
- Number of times you woke up at night
- Number of alcoholic drinks you had and when
- Number of caffeinated drinks and when you consumed them
- The time and the type of your evening meal
- Time of your last food and beverage intake before sleep
- Start and end time and duration of daily naps
- Alertness level in the morning
- Time, name, and dosage of drugs or medications you took
- Stress level before bedtime
- Time and type of exercise you had during the day
- Activities you performed the last hour before going to bed
- How you felt during the day
- Things that disrupt your sleep, if any, such as troubles breathing, insomnia, snoring partner, and more
If you start recording some or all of these things over the course of a couple of weeks to several weeks or more (it depends on how long it takes you to notice a pattern) you will learn more about how different things can affect your shut-eye. For example, you will notice if exercising during the day helped you improve your sleep patterns or no, if you started falling asleep earlier than usual, if giving up on heavy meals, alcohol, and caffeine in the evening improved your night’s rest, etc. All in all, you will learn how different factors impact your sleep quality and duration. You don’t need to be a highly trained professional to be able to get insight from a sleep diary, find patterns and make useful observations.
You can take a pen and a piece of paper and write everything down yourself, or you can find a sleep diary online and download it. A sleep diary worksheet will help you track your sleep. Another option is to download a sleep diary app to your smartphone.
Reasons to Keep a Sleep Diary
Some of the reasons to consider keeping a sleep diary include:
You Will Have a Better Idea about Your Sleep Patterns
Although many people suffer from sleep-related disorders, troubles falling asleep and staying asleep are not necessarily a consequence of these disorders. Sometimes, sleeping troubles are merely a result of bad habits. If you tend to drink too much coffee in the afternoon or evening, you probably won’t be able to drift off to dreamland easily. Consuming alcohol and heavy meals before bedtime can also disrupt your patterns and cause you to wake up frequently. If you drink too much water in the late evening, you will probably have to go to the bathroom during the night, and this action will prevent you from having an undisrupted sleep. As you can see, these and similar voluntary behaviors can have a negative impact on your shut-eye. Luckily, you can correct your habits by making small adjustments in your behavior week after week, until you finally start getting enough quality rest and wake up well-rested and full of energy in the morning.
You Will Help Your Doctor to Give You a Proper Diagnosis
If you decide to keep the diary for a few weeks, make some changes in your habits, and still don’t see any positive results, it is time to visit a doctor. During a consultation, you can present your sleep diary to a sleep specialist as it will make things easier. Sometimes, doctors can give the wrong diagnosis as all of us make mistakes from time to time, and they could recommend the wrong course of action for your problems. For example, some people have sleep apnea, but doctors recommend treatment for insomnia. One of the most common reasons for misdiagnosis is patient reporting. People mention some symptoms that they consider more important, and don’t mention other symptoms, which can contribute to misdiagnosis. When patients mention troubles staying asleep, mood disturbances, and tiredness, doctors rather assume that it is insomnia as patients fail to mention snoring and pauses breathing. However, a sleep diary can give your doctor a detailed insight into your problems that can mean a difference between the right and the wrong diagnosis. Details are more important than many people realize, and even the little things can cause sleep difficulties. Also, if you keep a diary, you won’t have to worry about forgetting to share something critical about your habits and patterns with your doctor. Sometimes we simply forget things and don’t remember to tell them, even if they are important, and writing it all down will prevent something like this.
You Will Notice the Improvement Easily
No matter if you decide to do everything on your own and start changing your habits, or you visit a doctor for help, thanks to a sleep diary it will be easier to monitor the improvement. If you stop drinking alcohol and coffee in the evening and replace heavy dinners with light meals, you will notice whether these things have had a positive impact on your sleep patterns or not. Also, if your doctor gave you a treatment for sleep disorders in a form of therapy or medications, you will soon know if it is helping. It is much easier to notice the improvement in your rest quality and duration if you write everything down than if you try to remember it.
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Renata is an economist who has always had a passion for writing. She is a dog lover, Netflix addict and a sleepaholic. When she is not busy doing sleep research, she spends her time reading books, hiking and playing video games.