Why and How to Start a Sleep Journal
Tying it All Together
*disclaimer – the advice contained within this blog post is not medical advice. It is not from a medical advisor standpoint, but rather from the viewpoint of someone who carefully researched sleep and causes of sleep disruption. This article is written for the individual who is tired of losing sleep and wants to take action on their own to find the roots of their loss of sleep.
Tying it all together – to put all your possible issues in one place and dissect them enough to figure out what might be causing your sleep issue, this is the main reason for a sleep journal and why you might consider starting one. A sleep journal involves more than your hours of sleep, in this journal you would recount your meals within 4 hours of bed, your actions within hours of bed, your worries throughout the day, your stress levels, and a few other facets of your daily life. Yes, it sounds like a chore, but in all reality, within days, you’re down to just about ten minutes a day of recounting your day.
Why a sleep journal?
A sleep journal is a list of daily life events. It’s a reminder of what you did, ate, thought, and felt throughout your day. You need this. We all go throughout our day without thinking about the little things we do. Sometimes those little things are what is costing us hours and hours of sleep.
Your sleep journal is your ticket to finding and taking action against the bad guys costing you your sleep. By notating everything you’ve experienced within hours of sleep, you can dig into what hurts your ability to unwind.
Sleep Journals are meant for those who are tired of losing the battle for sleep. It’s an action tool that requires commitment from you, but in the end, it can be the best tool for you to find the rest you need finally. I am not going to say everyone can handle this much work. I literally know how easy it is to fail at keeping a sleep journal, I have lost the battle to laziness while journaling many times over. BUT, the one time I succeeded was the time I found my issue and finally fixed it. Also, that one time I succeeded has led to multiple other times of journaling and solving other problems that pop up in day to day life.
How long should I keep this journal?
Recommendations from many sources say to journal for anywhere from one to three months. I have never had to go past a month. The whole point is to have a consistent record of things you ate, felt, thought, drank, and so on. A record of a month of this will quickly give you a vision of what might be your issue. A history of your day to day also gives you the out, which it did for me, to say that the issue is beyond your control and that you may need medical help.
I will repeat it, as pointed out in the disclaimer above, this journal does not take the place of medical advice. This journal will lead you to medical advice in many cases, but it can also guide you towards finding that your issue is simply a need to find different ways to unwind other than your current routine, or even worse, your lack of a routine.
What sort of info do I need in this journal?
The simplest set up is the date, day of the week, hours slept, a goal for hours wanted, and emotional condition upon laying down. Your health info would be your stress level throughout the day, on a self scale of 1 to 5. You should track your eating habits from 4 pm on to bedtime, what and how much you ate. What you drank, juices, water, milk, whatnot. Not only what you drank but how much and when. Most of the findings you will see quickest have to do with your eating habits, so treat this like gold, the more detail, the better both for your findings and for that of a medical practitioner in case you need to go that far in your fight for sleep.
It is crucial that you remember the medicines you have taken throughout your day. A lot of times medications are lost in our recollection of our daily diet.
Other items to note; your routine, your thoughts, room temperature (is it hot, warm, cold), what is the light level like in the room? How much noise is going on in the house? Can you breakdown your routine to a daily step by step basis and keep that in mind to find out different culprits causing loss of sleep?
Notate your mood, your hopes, your level of thankfulness. This helps to establish a base for medical advice if you need to get to that level. This is of utmost importance too. Sometimes we don’t even know we have emotional issues till we see it there in our own words in black and white. I have been here, and it is fantastic and awful to realize it without someone telling you, other than you.
Lastly, notate how much you slept. In the AM, write down your awake time. How you feel. Did you dream? What we think are little things over time add up to trends we can use to help ourselves find the sleep we’re losing.
What do I do with this information once I have a month?
Most of us will be dissecting the data as we go. Some trends are super easy to spot. Things like stressors, dietary issues, and medicines we’re taking to close to bedtime as very easy to find and fix.
Other times you won’t see them until you look deeper. For instance, every night seems to be different. There is no routine to be found. That’s an issue. Routines help our brain go into an almost self-guided mode and allow for wind-down efficiency.
The data collected most importantly, help you when and if you find a need for medical advice. You have eliminated a lot of the guesswork from your diagnosis. You are the guide in your diagnosis. The power you have at this point, cannot be overstated. You have information that would typically be leading to guessing by your doctor after short conversations. Congratulations, the chances of you receiving the help you need quickly have improved a hundredfold!
How do I self diagnose?
IF you find that you don’t need medical advice but see where the issue may be a dietary or habit issue, there are plenty of resources available to you. Many experts have selflessly shared their information in books and video interviews. Medical doctors have in-depth research projects available for research. It is a time of information overload. Trust me, the facts you need are out there.
About the author:
Javier Casillas is the owner of Live Well Mattress & Furnishings Centres, professionally trained sleep and furnishing stores, specializing in specific mattresses for specific needs. He lives to give. He is an active member of his community and church. His hard work and efforts pay off for him when he can help others, and give to efforts for the betterment of others.
His spare time is spent with his beautiful wife, Gretchen. They are craft beer hobbyists who enjoy making their own beers, visiting small breweries, and making new friends. Their lives revolve around church, family, exercising, four great dogs, and keeping up with their home in Alamogordo NM.