Everyone loves a good, deep sleep. Almost nothing can make us feel better than waking up with renewed energy and a sense of well-being. Yet as much as we need it, almost everyone takes sleep for granted until it’s disrupted. Most of us don’t put much energy into improving our sleep until we find we’re flagging during the day.
There are lots of things you can do when you want to sleep better—learn more about sleep, maintain better sleep habits (called “sleep hygiene” by the experts), eat more healthfully, exercise, or meditate. One helpful technique to try is keeping a sleep log.
Logging Your Zs
A sleep log is different from a dream journal. A sleep log is a record of the facts of your sleep, and can serve as the beginning of a useful analysis of your sleep habits. It can include factors such as what time you went to bed, any intervals of wakefulness during the night, what time you woke up, got up, and so forth.
For example, a serviceable log might be a simple table with a column for each day of the week, and rows headed:
- Time in bed (hours)
- Time awake
- Total night’s sleep
- Naps (number and length)
- Total hours’ sleep (in 24 hours)
You should personalize your sleep log for your own needs. That’s because each person has individual sleep issues, and your own analysis should pertain to you. Regardless of the data you choose to record, consider your sleep log a snapshot of your body’s attempts to rest. You might include these columns, too:
- Quality of Sleep (1-5)
- How rested do I feel? (1-5)
What does your sleep log reveal? Have you been thinking you’re getting eight hours when it’s more like six, or vice versa (very common)? Do you feel better when you sleep and rise later, or does your body clock seem to work best when you go to bed and get up with the chickens? What happens when you have dozed on the couch in the evenings? Are naps helping or hurting your night-time sleep? If you want to be thorough, you might consider recording additional factors such as:
- Sore shoulder(s)?
- Sore hip(s)?
- Tossed & turned?
- Low back pain?
- Other back pain?
- Slept hot?
- Partner disturbed me?
- Distractors? (party next door, siren, argument before bed, etc.)
Don’t make it too much work; it should take no more than a couple minutes in the morning to fill out. If you love the computer, you might enjoy turning your results into into a graph after a few weeks–but even a simple chart will help you spot the trends. It will be valuable evidence to share with your doctor, as well, if your sleep struggles are severe.