How to Keep a Sleep Diary to Help Identify Sleep Problems

Ensure That You're Setting Yourself Up for Healthy Sleep

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Keeping a sleep diary or sleep log is an important step in figuring out the reason you are having difficulty sleeping. A sleep diary keeps track of common behaviors and habits that can interfere with sleep and will help in determining what the problem is. Bringing a sleep diary to your doctor can help speed up diagnosis and solve your problems more quickly.

Diagnosing Sleep Deficiency and Disorders

Along with the other aspects of a long and healthy life (diet, exercise, and attitude), sleep is vital.

As an adult, the time you spend asleep is time for you body to maintain healthy brain function and your physical health. Sleep can also impact your mental health and how you feel when you're awake.

Just as quality sleep is vital to good health, sleep deficiencies can be a risk factor in many chronic health problems. Unfortunately, sleep disorders come in many shapes and forms and can be difficult to diagnose. If you feel that you have difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, it might be time to consult your doctor. Mot sleep specialists will recommend that you keep a sleep diary or log for several weeks to assist in finding patterns that might lead to diagnosis and treatment.

How to Keep a Sleep Diary

A sleep diary or log is essentially a record of your sleep-wake pattern over an extended period of time. Keep a sleep diary allows you to go about your normal routine in the comfort of your own home, while recording any and all information about your lifestyle and sleep that you and your doctor may find helpful when discussing your sleep concerns.

Your sleep diary will track every sleep episode, including naps. Though most doctors have their own approach to keeping a sleep diary, there are several important pieces that you can start recording even before your first doctor appointment. Here's what you can do to get started:

  1. Getting Started

    Take a notebook or piece of paper and divide it into 7 columns (one for each day of the week) and 12 rows. At the top of each column, write out the dates that you will be keeping your sleep diary.

  1. Label the Rows

    Label the rows in the following manner:

    1. Time I went to bed last night
    2. Time I woke up this morning
    3. Number of times I woke up
    4. Total time awake last night
    5. How long did it take to fall asleep?
    6. Medications taken
    7. How did I feel when I woke up (for example refreshed, tired, or very sleepy)?
    8. Total amount of caffeine during the day
    9. Total amount of alcohol during the day
    10. Number and length of naps
    11. Time spent exercising
    12. How tired were you today?
  2. Record Each Morning

    Each morning, fill out rows 1 through 7 for the night before and that morning. Do this when you wake up so you can remember as accurately as possible.

  3. Record Each Evening

    Each evening, fill out rows 8 through 12. Try to give accurate estimates of the amount of caffeine, exercise, and alcohol. You might even want to go as far as the record when you drank caffeine or alcohol in addition to how much.

  4. Look for Patterns

    Look at days when you reported feeling refreshed and awake in the morning. Do you see any connections between the amount and timing of caffeine, alcohol, or exercise the day before? Use the sleep diary to look for connections between good sleep days and bad sleep days. Experiment with changing your sleep habits and see what the effects are.

  1. Consult a Doctor or Sleep Specialist

    If after keeping your sleep diary and looking for patterns, you still cannot seem to fix your sleep concerns on your own, consult your doctor or a sleep specialist. Make an appointment and with your sleep diary in hand, come ready to discuss what you're experiencing when it comes to sleep (or lack thereof) .

More Healthy Sleep Resources

For more resources related to getting healthy sleep, be sure to check out our sleep for longevity articles:

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