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How to Keep a Sleep Diary

The first step to sweeter dreams starts with tracking your sleep hygiene habits. Find out what that is and how to do it.

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Keeping a sleep diary is a key first step in making any necessary changes to your sleep and can give you particular insight into sleep problems. Basic modifications to follow proper sleep hygiene can make a world of difference for some patients. For example, some people may notice a nice correlation on their diaries between having an afternoon coffee or nap and waking up during their sleep later that night. Some might find that sleeping in on the weekends makes it harder to fall asleep on Sunday night.  Others may notice that exercise too close to bedtime impacts their ability to fall asleep. 

Track your current sleep patterns for at least one week. Then, take a look at the following sleep hygiene recommendations and consider making some changes and recording them on your diary as well. 

Proper sleep hygiene includes: 

  • Keep a consistent bed and wake time every day, seven days a week. 
  • Avoid alcohol, tobacco, heavy meals, liquids and exercise within three hours of bedtime.
  • Avoid caffeine after 2:00 in the afternoon. 
  • Avoid naps, especially after 2:00 in the afternoon. 
  • Keep your bedroom quiet, dark and cool.
  • The bed is only for sleep and sex.
  • If you can't sleep, get out of bed and do something calm, quiet and relaxing in a dimly lit room. Return to bed only when sleepy again. 
  • Turn off all screen time (TV, iPads, iPhone, computers) one hour before bed and wind down with relaxing activities (reading, knitting, stretches, listening to music) in dim light.

COLUMN: Treat Insomnia, Naturally

Track these changes on your sleep diary for at least two weeks and see if it improves your sleep. If, despite making the above changes, you still have trouble falling asleep, staying asleep or feeling unrefreshed during the day, consider making an appointment with a sleep specialist. There are many effective treatments to help you obtain a good night's sleep in 2013. 

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