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What is a sleep diary and how can it help your health?

By Localiiz Branded | 12 May 2022

Header image courtesy of Cottonbro (via Pexels)

Brought to you by Bupa Global

Have you ever seriously considered your quality of sleep? While it is common to occasionally experience a few sleepless nights, you may find yourself having a poor night’s sleep more often than is considered healthy. An inadequate night’s sleep can be detrimental to your physical and mental health, but attempting to fix this predicament can be tough.

However, there are ways to help, and this is where keeping a sleep diary may come in handy. With a sleep diary, you can monitor the quality of sleep you are having and, in turn, gain insight into what might be causing you the most problems. Here are some of the benefits of keeping a sleep diary and how to get started with tracking your sleep.

Photo: Mert Kahveci (via Unsplash)

What is a sleep diary?

Keeping a sleep diary is straightforward. You record information about what may be impacting your sleep at night (or lack thereof) such as your schedule, food and drink intake, and exercise routine. A sleep diary also takes into account whether you have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep. All of this gives you a complete image of your sleep habits and behaviours and may help you identify issues that are causing your sleep to suffer.

Photo: Rehina Sultanova (via Unsplash)

Why is a good night’s sleep important?

A good night’s sleep is beneficial to your well-being in many ways. You benefit from better heart health, better concentration, better mental health, and a stronger immune system when you sleep enough. When you have trouble sleeping, you may feel anxious or struggle with daily tasks the next day. In fact, not sleeping well can have long-term effects on your health as well, such as an increased risk of heart disease and other chronic illnesses.

Photo: Zohre Nemati (via Unsplash)

How can a sleep diary help?

Most experts recommend that the amount of sleep you should be getting each night is seven to nine hours. With a sleep diary, you can record how long you sleep each night and, in turn, compare it with the recommended length. 

A sleep diary also helps you recognise habits that may be responsible for causing bad sleep. Certain behaviours, such as working late into the night or drinking a glass of wine, may be making it harder for you to fall asleep and even be causing you to wake up during the night. With all of this information tracked in your sleep diary, you can then consider the factors that may be interfering with your quality of sleep.

Photo: Zoran Borojevic (via Unsplash)

How to keep a sleep diary

Keeping a sleep diary should be in whatever way is most convenient for you, whether it means recording your sleep in your notebook or on your phone. Having a template can also be advantageous to keep things consistent, such as this sleep diary template created by Bupa. With this, you can answer a few questions in the morning and at night to gather the most important information about your sleep quality.

What to record: Note down what your daily routine consists of and what may be causing you sleep issues. Some factors you can consider recording are the caffeinated drinks or sugary foods consumed within four hours of going to bed, exercise done within four hours of bedtime, watching television or spending time on your phone before sleeping, any daytime naps, and the level of energy you feel in the mornings on a scale of 0 to 5.

How to get the most out of your sleep diary: Record your daily habits as well as the quality of your sleep to draw connections between them, such as that drinking coffee in the late afternoon leads to less adequate sleep, for example. Another tip for getting the most out of your sleep diary is to keep using it for at least a week to help you identify any possible patterns. Set a reminder on your phone to help you remember to write in your sleep diary or leave your diary next to your bed.

Photo: Solen Feyissa (via Unsplash)

Using fitness trackers and apps to monitor your sleep

A useful addition to keeping a sleep diary is to use a fitness tracker or a health app to help monitor your sleep. As research shows, having trouble sleeping may lead to you underestimating how long you sleep, and it may be difficult to remember how long you stayed asleep and whether you had any disruptions off the top of your head.

Fitness trackers can monitor your quality of sleep as well as how long you are asleep for. Certain fitness trackers can even record how deeply you slept, the number of hours you were asleep, and whether you experienced any disruptions throughout the night.

Although these trackers and health apps may not be 100 percent accurate, they can provide useful information to create a more complete picture of how your night’s sleep really went. By using these trackers, you can compare the data with your own observations and make the most out of keeping a sleep diary.

Photo: Gaelle Marcel (via Unsplash)

What should I do with the results of my sleep diary?

The results of your sleep diary may help you understand your sleep patterns and behaviours better. In doing so, it can help you identify areas of your routine that may benefit from some changes, so that you can take the necessary steps in improving your quality of sleep. An example of such changes could include avoiding alcohol before going to bed or turning off your electronic devices earlier.

Recognising patterns and changing them may improve your quality of sleep, but if such changes do not affect it, it may be worthwhile to show your sleep diary to a healthcare professional. Healthcare professionals may be able to help identify if you have a sleep disorder such as insomnia or sleep apnoea, and then be able to help you treat the issues in order to improve your sleep and overall well-being.


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2. Insomnia. The Sleep Foundation., updated November 2021

3. Sleep and physical health. The Sleep Foundation., updated June 2021

4. Sleep and mental health. Mind., published May 2020

5. Sleep diary. The Sleep Foundation., updated February 2021

6. Sleep and job performance. The Sleep Foundation., updated June 2021

7. How sleep deprivation affects your heart. The Sleep Foundation., updated December 2020

8. How much sleep do we really need. The Sleep Foundation., updated March 2021

9. Personal communication, Amy Gallagher, Sleep Physiologist at Bupa, January 2022

10. Short MA, Arora T, Gradisar M et al. How many sleep diary entries are reliably needed to estimate adolescent sleep? Sleep 2017; 40(3). doi: 10.1093/sleep/zsx006

11. Manconi M, et al. Measuring the error in sleep estimation in normal subjects and patients with insomnia. Journal of sleep research 2010; 478–86. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2869.2009.00801.x

12. Robbins R,et al. Sleep tracking: A systematic review of the research using commercially available technology. Curr Sleep Med Rep 2019; 5(3):156–63. doi: 10.1007/s40675-019-00150-1

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