Keep a Sleep Log to Help Fight Nighttime Anxiety

You can learn a lot from tracking nighttime and daytime behaviors.

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Whether you suffer from generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) or find that your sleep is easily disrupted during periods of acute stress, there is a simple self-monitoring tool that can help you collect some data about your sleep pattern and develop experiments to try and improve it.

A sleep log can help you to decipher the nature and extent of your sleep problem, whether it has to do with trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, nighttime restlessness, or unsatisfying sleep.

It should be completed first thing in the morning when your memory for the previous evening will be freshest.

In the sleep log, note:

  • Day of the week (and date, if keeping a log for multiple weeks)
  • Time you went to bed last night
  • Time you awoke this morning
  • How easily you fell asleep (consider using a 0-10 scale, or choosing between set options such as ‘easily’, ‘with a little difficulty’, ‘with great difficulty’)
  • Number of times you recall waking up during the night
  • How long you were up each time you awoke during the night
  • Total hours slept
  • How restored you felt when you woke up for the day (again, consider using 0-10 scale, or choosing between set options such as ‘great’, ‘somewhat refreshed’, ‘exhausted’)

At the end of the row or column of your sleep log for a particular day, make note of any mental or physical factors that might have impacted your sleep. Jot down specific worries that might have been racing through your mind, even if they seem less intense or realistic in the light of day.

If you experienced your anxiety through physical, rather than mental, symptoms, make a note of which symptoms applied that evening. And of course, don’t forget other biological factors (for women, for example, where you are in your menstrual cycle) and environmental factors (such as noise, light, temperature, partner’s sleep).

If you have kept a sleep log previously, you might also include a rating of last night’s sleep compared with your prior average night’s sleep. A simple rating of ‘better’, ‘worse’, or ‘same’ as average should suffice.

The information gathered through this sleep log will take you further if you pair it with a day log.

In the day log, you might track:

  • Amount of caffeine consumed in the morning, afternoon, and evening
  • Exercise type and amount (for more on using self-monitoring to build a regular exercise routine, see this related post)
  • Medications taken
  • Napping (when and for how long)
  • Likelihood of dozing off mid-activity during the day
  • Overall mood (you might rate this from 0-10, or note it as ‘positive’, ‘neutral’, or ‘negative’)

At the end of the row or column of your day log for a particular day, make note of what you consumed in the several hours preceding bedtime including alcohol (amount, type), caffeine (amount, type), food (type, amount). Jot down what the bedtime routine will include for the evening, be it a shower, reading, a relaxing breathing exercise, etc.

After you’ve gathered at least a week’s worth of information, take some time to analyze your sleep and day logs. Look for patterns and pick one experiment to try at a time. For ideas of what these sleep experiments might be, see this related post.

If your sleep problem persists or worsens over several weeks, speak with your physician and/or your mental health provider for a thorough evaluation of possible underlying causes.

For more information on sleep and different kinds of sleep problems, visit the website of the National Sleep Foundation and this overview of common sleep disorders.


Hauri, P, Linde, S. No More Sleepless Nights: A Proven Program to Conquer Insomnia. New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1996.

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