Keeping A Sleep Diary and Why You May Need One

Sleep Diary – a tool to help you sleep better

If you have problems sleeping, keeping a sleep diary may be a good place to start. A sleep diary can provide both you and your healthcare provider with insight on which factors may be interfering with getting the rest you need. Information, such as bedtime routine, sleep schedule and sleep habits may provide clues to the problem. A sleep diary can also be a valuable tool to identify a sleep disorder.

Who Should Keep a Sleep Diary?

Anyone who feels their quality of sleep is not adequate and is not sure why should consider keeping a sleep diary. For example, if you often feel tired in the middle of the day or don’t feel refreshed when you wake up, you’re probably not getting the quality of sleep you need. Maybe you wake up several times a night or take an hour to fall asleep, which is preventing you from getting restorative sleep.

In some cases, a sleep diary will shed some light on habits you have that are affecting your sleep. Keep in mind; not all sleep problems are due to a sleep disorder. Problems sleeping may develop because of bad sleep habits. For instance, you might recognize a pattern of working out too close to bedtime or using your laptop in bed making it more difficult for you to fall asleep.

It’s easy to lose track of all the little things we do during the day, that may play a role in how we sleep. Keeping a detailed record may help you pinpoint what is negatively affecting your sleep.

What to Record in Your Diary?

Keep a sleep diary for at least two or three weeks unless otherwise instructed by your healthcare provider. It may sound like a chore in the beginning. But recording info in a sleep diary should only take a few minutes each morning. It’s also best to get it done as soon as you wake up. Make it a habit of recording information before you get out of bed in the morning. If you jump out of bed to use the bathroom or brush your teeth, you may forget to come back and record everything.

To get an accurate picture of what may be affecting your quality of sleep consider recording the flowing factors:

  • The time you wake up each day
  • How you feel when you wake, such as whether you’re refreshed or groggy
  • How many hours you slept
  • Medication you took during the day
  • Alcohol and caffeine consumed and at what time
  • Exercise and what time
  • Any naps you took during the day
  • Activities leading up to bed, such as watching TV, using you phone or reading
  • What and when you ate and drank last
  • The time it took you to fall asleep
  • How many times you woke up during the night

Also, be sure to add any other pertinent information, such as if you had a stressful event occur or switched shifts at work. You can add more information if you see fit. Anything that may play a role in your quality of sleep should be recorded.

What’s Next?

If you are instructed by your healthcare provider to keep a sleep diary, you will share the results with your practitioner. In some instances, you or your doctor may notice negative patterns that affect sleep. If you notice a pattern that affects sleep, consider making a positive change and continue to record everything in your sleep diary. Making one positive change at a time may be best to determine what modifications are improving sleep.

In other instances, your healthcare provider may identify signs and symptoms of a sleep disorder. If your doctor suspects a sleep disorder, he will likely order a sleep study. The type of study recommended may vary based on your symptoms.


Palo Alto Health Care Symptoms. Sleep Diary.  Retrieved February 2017.

Author: MaryAnn DePietro, CRT is a medical writer and licensed respiratory therapist with over a decade of clinical experience.


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