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How to use a sleep diary to help improve your quality of sleep.

How to use a sleep diary to help improve your quality of sleep.

Why you should have a sleep diary

Keep and use a diary to help understand your sleep patterns and problems. You may find it challenging to work out what is affecting your sleep, but a sleep diary can help achieve a good nights sleep. Sleep diaries allow you to count the hours you sleep and any disturbances throughout your night. A sleep diary involves recording information about your sleep habits. 

Information to keep in a sleep diary

Some of the information that can be kept in a sleep diary includes:

  • The time that you went to bed and woke up.
  • A total number of hours of sleep.
  • Overall rating of sleep quality. A scale between 1-5 can be helpful.
  • How many times you woke in the night, what do you do whilst awake and how long you are awake.
  • Whether you had any nightmares, night terrors, sleep paralysis or sleepwalking during the night.
  • Whether you slept during the day, and if so, for how long?
  • Any medication you may be on, including dosage and time of taking the medication.
  • The amount of caffeine, alcohol or nicotine you have in a day
  • The amount of physical activity you do.
  • What you eat or drink.
  • Your general feelings and moods, including any anxious or repetitive thoughts

Example of a sleep diary

An example of a sleep diary is below; You can record this any way you feel best suited to you. This example is in a table style, but writing these things down in a physical diary works as well.   

  Day 1 Day 2 Day 3 Day 4 Day 5 Day 6 Day 7
I went to bed at 11 pm 10.30 pm 10.15 pm 11.20 pm 11 pm 11.30 pm 11.45 pm
I woke at 7 am 7.30 am 8 am 7.20 am 7.45 am 8.30 am 6.45 am
Sleep rating (1-5) 4 3 2 4 2 5 3
Wakeups none Once, for 10 mins, toilet. Twice for the toilet, 10 mins each time. none Awake on the phone for 1 hour at 3 am none Twice for the toilet. 10 mins each time
Total hours of sleep 8 hours 8 hours 9 Hours 45 mins 8 hours  7 hours, 45 mins 8 hours 6 hours 40 mins
Notes: I Will leave the phone away from the bed. Eight hours is enough sleep for me. Over 9 hours was too much sleep for me. Felt exhausted when I woke up—fewer fluids before bed to minimise waking up. 

Remember to keep a sleep diary when going to bed and keeping your daily routines as normal as possible. It will help you identify any issues in your day-to-day routine and allow you to be aware of the areas that need work to help you get better sleep. 

For those visiting a doctor about their sleep problems, a sleep diary will help your doctor best understand your routine and disturbances. It can help your doctor identify the problem and give you the help and advice needed. A sleep diary will be more reliable for a doctor than just asking you to recall each night sleep many days or weeks later. 

Keeping a good sleep diary routine 

Remember to update your diary each morning; the sooner you record everything in the sleep diary, the more accurate the information is.

Getting in a morning routine to fill in the diary will help avoid gaps, giving a more informative diary. 

Sleep diaries are a small effort to keep and an even smaller cost to maintain, but the reward can be huge, the key to help you find your best night’s sleep.  

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