What does your average day look like? Is it filled with rushing around, trying to fit in everything? Do you sacrifice an hour or two of sleep just to make sure you can tick those jobs off your to-do list? We definitely do.
But have a think about this…how do you feel when you don’t exercise for a week? Sluggish? Lazy? Tired? Ok, now have a think about how you feel when you don’t sleep for a week…that’s right, you probably can’t think! Or function for that matter!
Sleep is vital to everything we do. It’s our body’s way of recovering.
Unfortunately, in today’s fast paced world we often sacrifice sleep to get our jobs done. Or when we do sleep, it’s often broken or disturbed. Who can remember the last time they woke up feeling well rested and ready to take on the day? Hmmm, not us.
That’s where a sleep diary comes in. Keeping a sleep diary can help you to identify things that happened during the day that may be impacting your ability to have a good night’s rest. It might seem like a pain, and just another thing to tick off your to-do list, but it can really help.
Here’s how to start one:
Draw up a simple table, divided by morning, during the day and at night. In each section, record particular events, such as:
- What time you got out of bed
- What time you wake up properly (because how many of us really wake up as soon as we jump – or roll – out of bed?)
- Whether or not you feel rested when you wake
- Any aches or pains not felt the previous night, especially jaw/tooth related aches
During the Day
- The amount of caffeine consumed (type e.g. coffee or tea, amount and what time was it)
- The amount of alcohol consumed (again, type, amount and what time it was)
- Any stressful events (what kind of events were they, work related, family related? Do you think they will continue tomorrow or were they a once off?)
- Exercise (what exercise did you do, at what time and for how long)
- Did you have any daytime naps (if so, what time of day and what was the length of nap)
- Any medications taken, whether they worked and how they made you feel the next day
- What time you went to bed
- The last foods eaten before going to bed, including the amount of each food
- The estimated time it took you to fall asleep
- How many times your sleep was disturbed and how long it took to fall back asleep
- The total time spent sleeping (not lying in bed)
- Anything else about the night you feel is relevant to record.
It’s important to make sure you are consistent with this diary. Ideally you should keep one for a couple of weeks to help accurately determine the root cause of your sleep problems.
By being diligent about updating your sleep diary throughout the day, you can also start to determine what is inside and outside the realm of your control. Hopefully keeping this diary will help you realise what is impacting your sleep. If after a couple of weeks of recording your sleep you can’t pinpoint the root cause of your poor rest, take it to a doctor or sleep specialist and they may be able to help with diagnosing a particular sleep disorder.