By Magdalen Manning
We are all aware of the struggles of getting a bad night’s sleep, the dreariness the next day, the frustration in the moment and the anxiety that it will happen again. Likewise, we have all read the countless articles on how we can improve our sleep, but this one is different! Below, we will explore why a sleep diary is transformative to your daily routine.
As someone who has struggled with insomnia throughout my life, I too have tried many methods to aid the symptoms, from sleep sprays to medication, I’ve done it all. However, during my second doctor’s appointment about said insomnia my doctor suggested keeping a sleep diary, having never done this before I was intrigued. Previously, I had been told to keep a daily mood diary, and so I was familiar with the process, however a sleep diary is structured in a slightly different way: within the diary you would note your bedtime/wake up time, how long it takes to get to sleep, diet and medications for the day, daily medications and number of naps throughout the day. Having trialled this for a week I was able to conclude what specifics were affecting my sleep, for instance, if I had eaten before bed I would find it harder to sleep than if I structured my eating throughout the day. I also added to my sleep diary a dream section, I struggle particularly with vivid nightmares and sleep paralysis, whilst this was harder to pinpoint the problem, I did recognise an improved sleep after taking magnesium nightly.
So, what does the science say? According to Healthline, keeping a sleep diary can help to track issues with your sleep hygiene, having poor sleep hygiene can affect every part of your life, from an increase in mental health issues like depression, a reduced immune system function and a lower sex drive, to name a few. By tracking your sleep, you are enabling a crucial gathering of information. Not just about your sleep but daily habits, in psychology this has shown to improve the overall quality of life and a positive mood. Celebrity trainer, and author Harley Pasternak, spoke to Prevention to talk about his sleeping habits, claiming to wear his Fitbit nightly to track his sleep, the device has a built-in sleep diary, ‘sleep stages’, which tracks and analyses the diverse stages of sleeps, records the times and works around the user’s daily habits. “This data will help me manipulate my night-time habits to improve my sleep quality for the rest of the week and beyond.” (Harley PArternak, 2019)
according to therapists, a sleep diary is a form of cbt (cognitive behavioural therapy), it is an active assessment of a problem, whilst simultaneously identifying issues within the problem. Lack of sleep has been studied, and shown to contribute to symptoms of depression, anxiety and other psychiatric problems, in some cases even worsening them, having an active sleep diary lets the user to look back at what has and hasn’t worked for them, adding a journaling section can also be beneficial however this is not a necessity.
I would recommend investing in a daily planner/journal and incorporating the log into your routine every morning, Alternatively, there are many free sleep log templates to be found on google. Likewise, I would optimise your sleep space, according to your budget, invest in organic sheets, as seen on the positive company’s website, create low lighting and ensure you have everything you need before getting into bed.