Do you feel extra sleepy throughout the day? Is it difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep? Are you waking up earlier than you would like and are unable to go back to sleep? Are you having trouble focusing at work or school? Are you relying on large quantities of caffeine to get through the day? Are you waking up feeling unsatisfied with your sleep quality or quantity? If your answer to these questions was “yes,” then you might have a sleep disorder.
If you are consistently struggling with sleep and feel as though you may have a sleep disorder, speak with your primary care physician or a sleep specialist. Often, one of the first things you will be asked to do is to keep a sleep journal (or diary) for a minimum of two weeks. This journal will provide your physician or sleep specialist with important information and help them to better judge whether a sleep study should be performed or not.
Stay ahead of the curve and begin keeping a sleep journal before your first doctor’s appointment. This documentation could help to speed up the diagnosis and healing process.
What is a Sleep Journal?
A sleep journal is used to record your sleep habits and patterns and is immensely useful in helping doctors decide if a sleep study is necessary for the diagnosis of a sleep disorder.
For a minimum of two weeks (three or more would be better), you will need to record the following information:
- Activities performed in the hour leading up to sleep (such as watching television, taking a warm bath, etc.)
- Your bedtime
- The amount of time it took you to fall asleep
- How often you woke up during the night
- Any sleep disturbances (like nightmares, leg movements, trouble breathing, insomnia, night sweats, etc.)
- The time you got out of bed in the morning
- How restorative you felt your sleep was
- The time you spend exercising each day
- The amount of caffeine you consumed throughout the day and at what time
- The number of alcoholic beverages you consumed throughout the day and at what time
- Medications used (and dosage) each day
The National Sleep Foundation has a downloadable sleep journal here.
4 Reasons Why You Should Keep a Sleep Journal
Keeping a sleep journal allows you to better understand your sleep patterns and habits. Often, sleep troubles are not caused by a sleep disorder, but your own bad habits. If you drink an excessive amount of caffeine in the afternoon, drink alcohol before bed regularly, or have poor sleep hygiene overall, it can affect how well you sleep at night.
After a week, if you notice an unfavorable pattern that can be corrected by your own judgment, make changes the next week to see if your sleep improves. If so, it is possible that you won’t need a sleep study and will be able to correct your problem by making better choices. If there is no improvement after you have made the necessary modifications, this could be an indication of a deeper issue.
Keeping a sleep journal will get you to be dedicated to your sleep. Once you start a sleep journal, it won’t take you long to realize how important sleep is, and the effect that it has on your life. This may help you to do things that promote quality sleep rather than deter from it. Perhaps you will notice you have been drinking caffeinated beverages too late in the evening and switch to a drink that improves sleep like chamomile tea or tart cherry juice instead.
You may also notice that while your glass of wine in the evening helped you to fall asleep quickly, you woke frequently during the night, and your sleep quality was poor.
There is also the possibility that you will notice that the days you work out or were more active in general, were followed by an amazing night’s sleep, and you’ll begin to perform these activities more.
Keeping track of your sleep habits in a journal will help you to care about your sleep, and do more things that support it, and fewer things that hinder it.
A sleep journal can help your doctor give you a proper diagnosis. If you have kept your journal for two or more weeks and have made necessary changes in your sleep habits without any positive results, it is time to present your findings to your doctor and/or sleep specialist.
With a well-documented journal, your doctor will be better able to understand your sleep troubles and patterns. Sleep disorders are tough to diagnose because many of the symptoms are the same in each condition. For example, a simple entry in your journal may change your diagnosis from insomnia to another disorder such as sleep apnea.
You will be able to monitor the success of your treatment. If you are diagnosed with a sleep disorder, you should continue to keep your sleep journal for at least the first few months. You may find that the adjustments you must make can be hard to get used to and it can be frustrating. You may find it comforting to compare your post-treatment journal to your pre-treatment journal and see the proof of your treatment’s effectiveness laid out before your eyes. It can also help you and your doctors make any adjustments to your treatment plan if needed.
If you have been keeping a sleep journal and have made the proper adjustments, but still find that you have no luck getting the sleep you need, you may want to consider taking the next step: a sleep study. Schedule an appointment at Family Sleep Diagnostics in Hurst, TX today. Our sleep experts will get to the root of your problem and get your sleep health back on track. Simply schedule an appointment online or give us a call at (972) 714-0011.