Keeping a Sleep Diary
When you and your doctor are attempting to diagnose your difficulty to get adequate sleep, it’s important to make sure your doctor gets all the details. While you can try and just remember everything that might be relevant, the best way to ensure you get all the information is to keep a comprehensive sleep diary.
What to Record
Record everything. Even if you think something may not be relevant, write it down anyway. You never know what may be the key piece of information that will help your doctor make a diagnosis. Carry your diary with you and take down information several times a day.
At night, you should record your sleep conditions. Take note of any details that might be affecting your sleep patterns. Keep careful track of things such as:
● Anything you eat before going to bed
● Room conditions like temperature and amount of light
● What practices you use to relax before bed
● Any conditions that are bothering you while trying to get to sleep
Write down anything else that you think could be affecting your sleep, as well, no matter how small or trivial it may be. The smallest detail could be just the information your doctor needs to diagnose you and help you get better sleep.
In the Morning
Every morning, record details of the previous night’s sleep. List both problems and successes, as either one can be useful in helping you get better sleep. Take note of factors such as:
● Approximately how long it took you to get to sleep
● How frequently you woke up in the middle of the night and what woke you
● What you dreamed about
● What time you woke up in the morning
● How long you spent sleeping altogether
● Aches and pains you feel upon waking
● How you feel overall, especially whether or not you feel adequately rested
Morning is the best time to assess what might be affecting your sleep and take stock of your resting patterns. Write in your sleep diary first thing in the morning, before you do anything else, to keep your memories and sensations fresh in your mind. That way, you’re less likely to accidentally leave out potentially important information.
Throughout Your Day
Although it’s called a sleep diary, that doesn’t mean you should stop using it for the rest of the day. Any number of factors throughout your daytime activities can be affecting your sleep. Discuss with your doctor what factors you might need to keep track of. Also make a note of any of the following:
● How frequently you take naps and how long they last
● How much alcohol and caffeine you consume and when
● Any events causing you stress and whether you expect them to still bother you tomorrow
● What medications you take, when, and how they affect you
● Any exercise you engage in, including duration and how it makes you feel
Take your diary with you to work, school, or other daily activities, so that you can record information as it comes up. The sooner you can write down important data, the more accurate it will be.
Keep It Going
Keep your sleep diary for at least a few weeks. The longer you use it, the more information you’ll collect, and the easier it will be to detect patterns and reach a diagnosis.
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