Why You Should Keep a Sleep Diary

sleep diary

Have you ever heard of a sleep diary? A lot of people keep track of their sleep habits over periods of time in order to help with the relief of sleep disorders. Others keep sleep diaries purely out of curiosity. 

Do you suffer from insomnia? Do you wake up a lot in the middle of the night and don’t know why? You may want to start tracking your sleep habits and try to figure out the culprit, if there is one. Your doctor may ask to see your sleep logs If he or she thinks you have a sleep disorder. A sleep specialist will look at all the details and try to figure out what behaviors can be changed in order to get you some better night’s sleep.

What is a Sleep Diary

A sleep diary or sleep journal is a place where you jot down all aspects of your sleeping habits every day for a period of time. Everything from the time you go to sleep, the time you wake up, and also things like how much coffee you had during the day. 

It is up to you how detailed you want to keep track of your sleep. We all know that things like alcohol, caffeine, and even exercise can disrupt our night’s sleep. Our ultimate goal is to get some good zzz's every night so that we can wake up feeling rested and ready for our day.

Maybe you are unaware that some habits or activities during the day or the evening are affecting your sleep. You can start ruling out culprits when you log everything that can have an effect on your sleep. 

Many people suffer from insomnia and this is the main reason that people keep sleep diaries. If you are having trouble falling asleep or waking up several times during the night and can’t get back to sleep, you should record them in your sleep journal. Over time you will see patterns that may have you realizing what behaviors you could easily change to get a good night’s sleep. 

Sleep diaries are very personal and you can log whatever you want and keep out whatever you don’t want. But remember the more information you or your doctor have the better the chance of finding out what is messing up your sleep

Sleep logs can be kept for the timeframe that you want. Usually, a few weeks are enough to grasp what is going on with your sleep. Shorter than that period of time may not provide enough useful information while a longer period will get repetitive. 

Unless there is a significant daily lifestyle change like a vacation, you should be able to see a pattern arising. Don’t we all love those vacations where we can sleep in and indulge? Ok, getting side-tracked. 

But you get the picture. Keeping a sleep journal while on vacation may not be the most successful way to help you with your insomnia. 

Choose a 2-week period that is during your regular schedule and normal activities. Remember to keep it tidy and readable because you may eventually have to show it to your GP or sleep specialist.

Why Keep a Sleep Diary

sleep diary

Insomnia and other sleep disorders can creep up on us as we age or it may be a constant thing in someone’s life. You may be experiencing temporary sleepless nights for a particular reason like occasional stress, or you may be experiencing a lack of sleep for longer periods of time.

Either way, lack of sleep can be devastating on our lives, our health, and our relationships. It’s something that is serious and should be looked at.

Maybe you want to try to figure out the source of the problem on your own before you go running to a sleep doctor? You may find your solution on your own by logging in every detail of your sleep habits and everything that you think may affect your sleep.

The cause of insomnia is still a complete mystery. If you are suffering from insomnia, you may want to see a sleep doctor who is specialized in sleep disorders and has experience in treating sleep problems.

It’s always a good idea to start a sleep diary when you have symptoms of insomnia or other types of sleep disturbances. The doctor may ask you to start a sleep journal because it’s a good way of finding out your habits. Coming in equipped with a sleep journal in hand will help the doctor treat your case quicker.

You may want to keep a sleep diary out of curiosity also, even if you are not experiencing any serious sleep disorder. It’s interesting to see how your sleep patterns change when you consume certain beverages or foods. By jotting everything down for a few weeks you will most probably see a pattern arise. 

Sleep Diary Template

There are many sleep diary templates and sleep journal examples out there. It’s important to choose one that corresponds to your lifestyle and what you exactly want to achieve. 

These are some of the things that you want to keep track of in a sleep diary. Some may or may not apply to you.

  • The time you went to bed.
  • How long it took you to fall asleep.
  • The time you woke up.
  • How many hours you slept.
  • How many times you woke up during the night.
  • How long were you awake before falling back asleep.
  • Did you take a nap during the day and how long.
  • How much caffeine beverages or products (chocolate, soda, energy drinks, etc.) you had during the day and the times.
  • How much alcoholic beverages you had during the day and the times.
  • What time you last ate something before bed and what it was.
  • What type of exercise you had during the day and at what time.
  • What type of stress you dealt with during the day.

Here are some examples from Sleep Foundation and Sleep Council to start from. You can add and leave out anything that doesn’t suit you. Remember to be consistent about what you log. If you start logging in the coffees you have during the day and evening, it’s important to write them down every day because the results of your journaling may not be effective if you don’t.

Sleep Tracker Apps

You can find some apps to download on your smartphone or tablet to keep track of your sleep patterns. There are also websites where you can keep your sleep journal online.

Here are a few sleep diary suggestions. Some are free and some you have to purchase. 

  • Sleep Cycle
  • Sleepzy
  • Sleep Genius
  • Sleep Tracker + Lifestyle
  • Sleep Score

Most of these apps track your sleep during the night and record the times that you wake up and how long you were awake for each period. This can help when filling out your sleep journal the next day. Sometimes remembering everything that happened during the night is not easy. Chances are you will forget if you don’t write it down first thing in the morning. That’s where these apps come in handy. And some even track your snoring

Just put your phone beside your bed before you go to sleep and let the app log in everything that happens while you’re asleep.

Sleep Diary Benefits

sleep diary

No matter if you track by hand in a journal or in a sleep diary app, finding out the root-cause of your sleep disorders (i.e insomnia) is key to getting back to quality sleep.

Tracking your day-to-day activity and monitoring your sleep during the night, can lead to clues about what needs to be altered in your lifestyle to help you get better sleep.

It could be something as simple as cutting out that last cup of coffee in the afternoon.

You can get closer to your ideal lifestyle by incorporating many simple strategies into your routine - keeping a sleep diary is only one.