Whenever you try and improve something (your sleep, for example), a very basic idea is to know where you are, and whether things are gettting better. With insomnia, the best way to do this is with a simple journal.
I would encourage you to start keeping a sleep journal – even if it’s only a scrap of paper at your bedside. You can’t expect to remember how you slept a week ago last Tuesday – but if you have a journal you can find out. This is key to figuring out what works and what doesn’t for you as an individual. We’re all different, and different “solutions” will work for different people. Often, it’s a combination of behaviors that will affect our sleep – and you’ll never know what that combination is without keeping track somehow.
With the basic sleep journal, you’ll want to log a few simple variables:
- Yesterday’s date (night-of).
- What time you went to bed.
- Guess the time you fell asleep at (don’t watch a clock!)
- What time you woke up and got out of bed.
- How you slept the night – maybe on a scale of 1-10.
- Any other variable you’d like to track – like number of times awakened, whether you had a hot bath, loud noise from the street, whatever.
Do this for a couple of weeks, and if you notice a pattern of sleep (bad or good) that tells you something. Do more of what’s good, and less of what’s bad. Simple as that. Some “bad things” I’ve tried to reincorporate without success are watching TV within an hour of bed, and caffeine after about 3:30pm. They both caused me restless nights.
The journal is a window into your world at night – something that most of us take for granted – but if you have trouble sleeping, it can be a treasure trove of useful information.
If you’re anything like me – the data you gather by writing things down is a small subset of what you’d lke to know. I have about twenty variables that I want to track, and it’s all but impossible to do with a pen and paper. And even if you did, seeing a trend would be very hard.
What I do is log everything in an on-line spreadsheet (note: the Zeo user website that comes with the monitor includes access to an on-line, automatic sleep journal).
Whether you choose to use a spreadsheet of your own, or default to one provided for you, the data you have access to analyze is incredibly revealing.
I’ve put up a sample of my spreadsheet on Google Docs.
One note about journaling – try to make only one change at a time. Give it a week or two, and see if it’s made a difference. If it hasn’t then add another change. The journal will help you discern what and when you changed … and what’s effective and what isn’t.