Insufficient or interrupted sleep can have serious health consequences, but sleep problems aren’t always easy to identify. For that reason, a sleep diary is a valuable tool for tracking sleep, monitoring sleep habits, and documenting sleeping problems. Both patients and doctors find information in patient-kept sleep diaries useful.
A sleep diary is a daily record of important sleep-related information. Although not all sleep diaries are identical, they commonly include details about:
Sleep diaries are also called sleep journals or sleep logs. These terms are typically used interchangeably, although some consider a sleep diary to be more detailed than a sleep log. Regardless of the name, all of these are patient-recorded methods of tracking information about sleep.
By keeping a record of sleep, the diary makes it possible to calculate total sleep time. A sleep record also helps people identify sleep disruptions and other factors that can influence sleep quality.
Identifying details about habits that affect sleep can show patterns that help explain sleeping problems. For healthcare providers, the concrete entries in a sleep diary are often more reliable and usable than a general recollection about sleep habits.
Another way that a sleep diary is used is in preparation for certain specialized sleep studies. A sleep diary can enhance the validity of sleep tests by showing that a person’s sleep is stable in the lead-up to the study.
Staying current and updating your diary as you go helps avoid any gaps in your memory. For that reason, you want to keep your sleep diary and a pen in an easily accessible place where you’ll be reminded to fill it out every day.
If you’re filling out a sleep diary on doctor’s orders, make sure to use the form they provide and follow any accompanying instructions.
Doctors usually advise patients to keep a sleep diary for at least one week. You may need to update your diary for two weeks or more, though, depending on how it’s being used.
If you’ve decided to start a sleep diary on your own, you can decide for yourself how long to keep recording your sleep information and how often to review it.
If you’re keeping a sleep diary as a personal initiative, you can use it to benefit your health by conducting a check-in.
As you review your sleep diary, a handful of questions can help you evaluate your sleep:
As you go through these questions, you can identify opportunities to apply practical tips to boost your sleep hygiene and contribute to your overall wellness.
If you are keeping a sleep diary and notice that you aren’t getting sufficient sleep, talk with your doctor. Your doctor can review your sleep diary with you and determine whether or not any tests are necessary to diagnose and address your sleeping problems.
Regardless of if you’ve started a sleep diary, talk with a doctor if you have any of the following symptoms:
Although sleep diaries are frequently used by healthcare providers, they aren’t the only method of tracking sleep. Other methods include:
Because of its simplicity, low-cost, and broad insight into sleeping habits, the sleep diary remains an important part of recording and measuring sleep that may be used at a doctor’s request or on one’s own.