Keep a sleep diary

Benefits of keeping a sleep journal

Struggling to get enough shuteye at night? Tracking your sleep patterns in a journal may be the solution.

Sleeping is as vital to our bodies as breathing and eating. Without it, life simply isn’t possible. But for many of us, getting a good night’s rest is a constant struggle – and counting sheep just doesn’t seem to do the trick…

Insomnia, sleep apnoea, grinding of teeth and sleepwalking are very common disorders, and the biggest reasons why our sleep patterns are interrupted,” says sleep specialist Dr Alison Bentley.

The good news is you don’t have to press the snooze button on sleep forever. A sleep journal could give you valuable insight into your sleep patterns and help you to sleep soundly again.

“Tracking the details around your sleep situation is extremely useful in terms of diagnosing which sleeping disorder you have,” says Dr Bentley. This, in turn, will make treatment easier and more effective.

How to keep a journal
Experts say it’s best to keep a sleep diary over a couple of weeks, and to add only basic information about your day and night activities. The key is to track your sleep patterns without adding more stress to your day.

“Your journal should only take a couple of minutes a day to fill out and shouldn’t cause more anxiety about your lack of sleep,” says Dr Bentley. “Importantly, a sleep journal doesn’t mean that you should get up in the middle of the night to log events. It’s a reflective tool that will help you and your doctor figure out why you’re experiencing poor sleep.”

Ready to start? Follow these three simple steps:
Step one: Make time for reflection
Reflect on your day every night before going to bed: journal things such as how energetic you were during the day; if you felt particularly stressed at home or work; what and how much you consumed (e.g. tea/coffee/alcohol); how many cigarettes you smoked (if at all); when you exercised and what you kind of activities you did; whether you took any medication or supplements (over-the-counter and prescription meds, as well as herbal supplements and energy drinks); if you took any naps during the day; and, finally, what time you went to bed.

Step two: Log your sleep
Spend two minutes every morning to log your sleep. Ask yourself: How long did it take to fall asleep? How many times did I wake up? How long was I up each time?

“Also add how refreshed you felt on waking – using a score out of 5,” says Dr Bentley. “And ask your bed partner if there was anything you did during your sleep that was unusual, e.g. snoring or twitching your legs.”

Step three: Repeat, reflect and revolutionise
Keep repeating the above two steps for at least two weeks. “It takes about 14 days to start seeing obvious patterns in your daily routine that could be the reasons why you’re not sleeping well,” says Dr Bentley. Perhaps a cup of espresso at 4pm or a late-afternoon nap is causing the problem?

“Once you’ve analysed and narrowed down the factors that are keeping you up at night, you should try to eliminate them from your daily routine immediately,” advises Dr Bentley. You should then keep another sleep journal for two weeks. “This is helpful to see what happened when you made those changes.”

She continues: “If you still have trouble sleeping, despite making the changes, it may be worth making an appointment with a sleep specialist. Sometimes it could be something only a doctor can diagnose.”

Plus, your doctor will be thrilled if you can bring along a sleep journal as this will speed up the diagnostic and management process.

Best of luck!


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