JOURNALING: How & Why to Try a Sleep Diary (Part 6
“I keep waking up in the middle of the night and can’t fall asleep. I don’t know why I can’t sleep through the night,” says small business owner, Amy S.
Can you relate? Sleep is critical to your overall health and well-being. However, many people aren’t connecting what happens during the day to their night—and visa versa. Keeping a sleep diary may be just what your bedtime routine needs to help your mind, body and soul perform their best. After all, sleep isn’t just for the 8 hours you’re asleep; it’s also for the 16 hours you’re awake.
What Is a Sleep Diary?
There are a few ways to approach writing about your sleep habits. You can free-write in a journal, or use a sleep tracking app, like the SleepIQ®technology found inside Sleep Number® beds. The Sleep Number bed with SleepIQ technology inside tracks how well you sleep each night, giving you personal insights into your sleep. Your perfect Sleep Number® setting? Best sleep hours for you? It even connects to your favorite health and wellness apps, so you’ll learn how life affects your sleep, and how sleep affects your life. These insights help put you in better control of your sleep.
Journal Entry Styles
You can free-write diary-style: “Last night I slept average, had several bad dreams, possibly due to my late dinner. Had soda at 2 p.m. but that was my only caffeine.”
Or you can make a chart to record the basics such as:
- Day of Week: Work day, weekend, or vacation
- Caffeine: Coffee, cola or tea, and time of day
- Exercise and time of day you worked out
- Sleep and wake times
- Quality of sleep, on a scale from 1-5
- Thoughts and worries before bed
How Can a Sleep Journal Help?
Journaling can reduce stress, calm the mind, and help recognize detrimental sleep habits, says Pete Bils, vice president of Sleep Science and Research at Sleep Number. If you’re not sleeping well, discovering why may be as easy as writing in your sleep diary.
Recognize habits. “Writing down thoughts, worries, and sleep quality (including dreams, length of sleep, how many times you are restless) can help you to recognize habits and patterns in your sleep that need some work,” notes Bils. For instance, if you wake frequently in the night, it may be time to play around with bedroom temperature, consider getting a new pillow/covers or mattress, cut caffeine after noon, or stop reading the news on your phone or tablet in bed.
Reduce stress. When we’re anxious, cortisol—a stimulant—is released into our bloodstream, explains Bils. It’s like having a shot of espresso before sleeping. Journaling about daily stressors an hour before bed can reduce the anxieties and worries that keep us up at night.
Release outcomes. Journaling can help release issues keeping us awake. Take an event that’s bothering you, like tomorrow’s big meeting. Consider, in the journal, what might happen and how you’ll deal with anything negative. This provides a plan of action to release the worry, rather than dwelling on any potential problems, and having it interfere with sleep.
Use technology. Embedded apps, like Sleep Number’s SleepIQ technology inside Sleep Number beds, can provide insight into sleep quality, duration, restlessness, and more, especially alongside actively keeping a journal.
“When paired with a sleep journal, the user will have nearly double the information including their holistic sleep data, thoughts, feelings, and dreams,” remarks Bils, who recommends keeping a journal even if you’re using an embedded app. Seeing it in two places may help make the connections more obvious to you, to help confirm what is and isn’t helping you get your best quality slumber.
Crunching the Data
Regardless of how you choose to journal, what’s most important is the data itself and what you learn from it—spotting trends and habits, and pinpointing trouble areas that, if fixed, could improve your sleep quality.
For example, if you notice you sleep poorly when you have caffeine, you could drop that afternoon soda, and see if you sleep better. Perhaps working out too close to bedtime is a culprit. Try moving your exercise time earlier to see if sleep improves. Since you track your sleep, you’ll be able to see what works, and what doesn’t.
Read the rest of the series:
- JOURNALING: How & Why to Try a Gratitude Journal (Part 1)
- JOURNALING: How & Why to Try a Problem-Solving Journal (Part 2)
- JOURNALING: How & Why to Try a Visual Journal (Part 3)
- JOURNALING: How & Why to Try a Dream Journal (Part 4)
- JOURNALING: How & Why to Try a Feelings Journal (Part 5)
Like diet and exercise, quality sleep is essential for optimal health and performance. Because everyone’s sleep needs are different, Sleep Number® beds adjust to your ideal level of firmness, comfort and support. Find your Sleep Number® setting for your best possible night’s sleep.