Poor sleep quality over a sustained period of time has a disorientating effect on memory, which often makes it very difficult to pinpoint the reason why you’re struggling to sleep well. Writing a ‘sleep diary’ is a good way to keep track of your sleeping habits, and over time you’ll accumulate information that may help you to identify and eliminate any sleep problems.
A sleep diary needn’t be a detailed journal of your life’s events. Just noting down some key sleep-related points on a daily basis will be enough to get started, and as the weeks go by you may be able to spot certain patterns. By recognising these patterns you’ll be able to determine which conditions positively and negatively affect your sleep, and you can make the necessary adjustments in your day-to-day lifestyle.
A sleep diary should cover three important areas - timing, diet and how you feel.
The timing section should include the date, time you went to bed, time you woke up, and how many times you remember waking up in the night.
The diet section should cover each of your meals and snacks throughout the day (including when they were eaten), as well as any alcohol or caffeine drinks taken. Any medication should also be noted.
The how you feel section needs to detail your overall state of mind before you went to bed, such as whether you were particularly stressed, excited, relaxed or upset, and how you felt upon waking up - for instance; exhausted, well-rested or some point in between.
By recording each of these points every day you’re providing yourself with a wealth of information on factors that commonly impact on sleep quality, and in doing so you’re taking the first step to improving your sleep. You may find that a certain type of food or drink is keeping you awake. It could be that the stress of work at certain points is the reason you can’t sleep. Perhaps the time you go to bed isn’t ideal. By concentrating on these areas you’re likely to find room for improvement when it comes to how you prepare for sleep.
In some cases making changes with a sleep diary won’t result in better sleep, such as when you’re suffering from a sleep disorder. In such a scenario you would need to visit a doctor - however the sleep diary can still play a positive role. Showing your sleep diary to your GP will provide them with valuable information that could dramatically speed up diagnosis and treatment.
As sleep is so closely related to your overall health, energy levels and mood, you may find that by achieving better sleep with a sleep diary you’re making improvements across your life. With this in mind, it really is worth taking the time to make a sleep diary if you’re not sleeping well.