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Keeping a Sleep Diary

Solutions to Insomnia are Write In Front of You

Sleeping is just as important to survival as eating, drinking, and breathing. But for people suffering from insomnia, getting enough sleep can range from challenging to impossible. Although the cause may seem elusive, in many cases, simple detective work can figure out the root of insomnia, and simple behavior changes can fix it. The secret is to keep a diary—but not the kind you used in seventh grade. This is a sleep diary, used to record specific observations about your sleep patterns, and very useful for sharing with your doctor so that he or she can help you get some sleep. Here is how to keep a sleep diary:

Print out this article, and place it in a notebook of your choice. Starting with today's date, label seven consecutive pages (one for each day). Keep your notebook and a pen by your bed.

Spend a few minutes (before you go to sleep) briefly answering the following questions. Do this each night for the next seven days.
  1. What time did you wake up today?
  2. What time are you lying down to go to sleep?
  3. What, if any, was your bedtime routine?
  4. What were the last food(s) you consumed tonight? (Include type, amount, and time you ate.)
  5. Did you exercise today? (Include the type, duration, and time of day if you exercised.)
  6. Did you consume any alcoholic beverages today? (Include type, number, and time of day.)
  7. Did you consume any caffeinated drinks or foods today? (Include type, number, and time of day.)
  8. Did you take any medications (prescription and/or over-the-counter) today? (Include type, amount, and time of day.)
  9. Did you take any naps today? (Include number of naps, duration of each, and time of day.)
  10. What types of stressors did you encounter today, and what types do you expect to encounter tomorrow?
  11. How hungry did you feel today? (1- Not hungry, 2- Normal hunger, 3- Strong hunger, 4- Extreme hunger)
  12. How awake did you feel today? (1- Exhausted, 2- Somewhat tired, 3- Fairly alert, 4- Wide awake)
  13. How irritable did you feel today? (1- Calm, 2- Slightly annoyed, 3- Moderately irritable, 4- Highly irritable)
Next, draw a line of Zzz's across the page beneath your answers to these questions. When you wake up, answer the following questions below your "sleep" line:
  1. How long did it take you to fall asleep last night? (This may be an estimate.)
  2. How many times did you wake up during the night? (Include times you woke up and how long you stayed awake.)
  3. In total, how many hours did you sleep last night?
After a week of keeping your sleep diary, you may see an obvious pattern that you can self-correct—like ditching your three nightly espressos, finding ways to combat stress to better relax, or exercising earlier in the day. But if you try making modifications and still have trouble catching your Zzz's, don’t hesitate to consult your doctor for more suggestions. The two of you can work out a plan to help you sleep soundly in no time.

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Member Comments

  • Having a fitness tracker--does this step for you.
  • I hope starting the sleep diary again helps. Sleeping 3.5 to 4 hours has gotten real old.
  • I sleep pretty well but I do have a least two bad nights of sleep a week. Maybe I should keep a sleep diary
    I've never kept any kind of a journal but I'm going to keep my first on now.
  • Starting to today. It should definitely help me out to see what I'm doing wrong!
  • gonna start the journal tonight
  • I'm not much of a journal person - will give it a try.
  • I will start my sleep journal today.
    I joined today because I wanted to give this program a chance. Although journaling will take time, I think it will help me pinpoint some things I am not aware of that keep me from sleep. So, here goes.
    I really want to get a Jawbone Up band or FitBit that can track quality of sleep. I have some crazy dreams and even though I go to bed early enough, I wonder if I'm getting enough quality sleep. I also just started reading a book about sleep called Dreamland by David K. Randall.
  • Wonderful tips, I look foreword to doing this challenge and to see where I'm going wrong in getting to sleep. Sometimes I'm up until 4am!
    Chronic insomnia. I'm going to do this starting tonight!
  • Ok, following up my last comment, I have decided that instead of keeping a sleep journal which will be very difficult for me. What I can do is have sleep targets instead. I will keep it simple and just tick off if I managed to achieve those targets each day.
  • I suffer from sever Narcolepsy so keeping a sleep diary is not only pointless for me personally but will also add extra stress on to my normal none existent sleep pattern.
    My illness isn't a sleep disorder, it is a brain disorder characterised by sleep disorders and a lack of non-REM sleep due to the brains inability to produce enough hypocretin.
    It is incurable and I have to just try my best to maintain some sort of routine where possible. I have attempted to keep a sleep diary many times before but when I am likely to fall asleep up to 6 or more times during the day and then wake up during the night about 2 or 3 times... I spend the moments I have awake trying to be as active as possible although sometimes failing, I am not about to start spending that time attempting to write a sleep journal only to find myself falling asleep whilst writing it.
    I want to improve my sleeping habits for sure, and really try to get more of a routine going, I just moved to the other side of the world and the climate and time change is taking me a while to adjust to. But as for this part of the sleep challenge, I am going to have to decline because it's just not going to be of any help for me. I can see how for many people it would be very useful though. Good luck to the rest of you!!! Happy Sleeps ;)

About The Author

Liza Barnes Liza Barnes
Liza has two bachelor's degrees: one in health promotion and education and a second in nursing. A registered nurse and mother, regular exercise and cooking are top priorities for her. See all of Liza's articles.