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What is a Sleep Diary?

A sleep diary is a log of one's sleeping habits, usually over the period of a few weeks. It is used by doctors and patients to help diagnose and treat sleep problems, and it can provide a detailed pattern of sleeping and waking that can then be analyzed. Someone who is caring for a patient may also keep a sleep diary for that patient, but usually it is something that is kept by oneself.

The most basic information contained in a sleep diary includes the time that one went to sleep and woke up. It is also beneficial to note whether one was asleep for that entire time, or if there were periods of waking during that time as well. For a more detailed picture, some people write when they first attempted to fall asleep, as well as the time they estimate they actually did fall asleep. This can indicate to the doctor that one takes a long time to fall asleep, for example.

How one wakes up in the morning can be important as well. For instance, one might record in a sleep diary whether one woke up spontaneously or to an alarm clock, and if one immediately got out of bed or felt the need to hit the snooze button a few times before getting up. In addition to nighttime sleeping and waking patterns, naps during the daytime should be included in the sleep diary as well.

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Some people also record their energy levels throughout the day, either with a few words or on a numerical scale. In addition, any foods or beverages that could potentially affect sleep should be included; this might be caffeinated or alcoholic beverages, for example, in addition to any medications. One might also choose to record activities before bed, such as TV watching or exercise, and note the time that dinner was eaten.

Even though all of this information may seem unrelated, it can all help to give a doctor a clear picture of what may be affecting one's sleep. A sleep diary can just be a simple notebook, or it can just be kept in a text file on the computer. There is no need to get too technical; simply note the information above and anything else that a doctor may ask for. He or she can then make suggestions for improving the quality of sleep and length of time one stays asleep, as well as making it easier to wake up in the morning.

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