By Rajnish Mago, MD (bio)
A sleep diary is a very important tool for identifying sleep-related problems, implementing interventions, and evaluating progress.
Sleep diary templates
Here are links to 5 blank sleep diary templates that clinicians and patients can download at no cost and use to monitor sleep at baseline and during treatment. Each of these is from a reputable source.
Some tips on using sleep diaries
1. There are some things that sleep diaries must include and some that are optional.
2. Depending on the patient’s history, we may tell a particular patient which parts of the sleep diary are most important for that person to do.
3. Patients are often reluctant or “less than diligent” in terms of filling out the sleep diary. So, we should ask patients directly about how much information they are willing to carefully fill out.
4. Patients are typically willing to fill out more information in the sleep diary if we emphasize that we only want them to do this for one week (at least for now).
5. We should be clear about which items we want the patient to fill out before going to bed and which ones are to be filled out after waking up in the morning.
6. We must clearly differentiate between “went to bed,” what I call “lay down with the intention of sleeping,” and “fell asleep.” In the past, I was repeatedly confused when patients told me that they went to bed at a certain time but I found out later that after “going to bed,” they watched TV or read for a considerable amount of time. I want to emphasize the time when the lights are off and the person is lying down with eyes closed. I call this “lying down with the intention of sleeping.” This is important for getting a correct understanding of the patient’s sleep patterns. But also, I don’t want to focus too much on what time the patient fell asleep since that is not in the patient’s control. What IS in the patient’s control is to switch off the lights, stop doing any activities, close the eyes, and “lie down with the intention of sleeping.”
What should sleep diaries include?
To choose a sleep diary from the free templates linked to above or to create your own custom sleep diary, it is helpful to first spend a little time thinking about what the sleep diary should include.
The sleep diary should include for each day the times that the person:
1. Got into bed
2. Lay down with the intention of sleeping
3. Was actually asleep during the night (estimated approximate times)
4. Was awake for the last time
5. Got out of bed
What else could be helpful
Here are some other features that I think are useful and should be included in a sleep diary if possible:
What type of day is it? Ordinary work day/ Ordinary weekend day or other day off/ Vacation day
Factors that may affect sleep
It would be good to also track the amount and timing of factors that may affect sleep:
4. Use of screens that emit blue light (computer, laptop, TV)
6. Napping during the day
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