Recent studies show that insomnia affects one in five of the population. Many people will recognise the symptoms: difficulty in falling asleep waking during the night or waking early in the morning.
Finding the causes for lack of sleep is difficult but many insomniacs have benefited from using a Sleep Diary to assist them with their sleep monitoring. This helps record things that happen during the day that may be a factor in their sleeping difficulties
A Sleep Diary should be divided into two parts.
- Days Events
- Ready for Bed
- Time for Bed
- Hours sleeping/waking
- Time waking up
The diary should be an honest account of all the elements that might be affecting your sleep. Try and record how you feel and if there is anything that happens during the day that might affect how you feel – good or bad. The act of recording any concerns or worries is sometimes enough to help you relax!
It is a good idea to make keep sleeping records for at least a week before checking if there are any things that you are doing that are affecting your sleep. If you have a partner it is helpful to have their input. They might have some observations on how well you sleep or if there are any other sleep related problems such as difficulty breathing or nightmares.
A Sleep Diary may help you recognise if there are any nights you sleep particularly well or badly. It is then possible to see if these are days when you did things like eating late or having extra caffeine that make it harder to sleep. Monitoring your sleeping patterns and making a note on how you feel when going to bed will also help you assess whether you are feeling stressed or having difficulty relaxing.
Exhaustion Won’t Solve the Problem
Insomnia is often suffered in silence. It is easy to cling to the belief that eventually exhaustion will solve the problem – you will be so tired the body will give in and let you have a good night’s sleep. Unfortunately insomnia is a tricky condition. It will let you have enough sleep to keep you going, but not enough to prevent you from feeling tired and irritable during the day.
Some people are not even aware that they have a real problem until their health, relationships and sanity are threatened. Of course, trying to sleep makes it difficult to monitor how much sleep you are really getting. In fact, it is not unusual for people to underestimate how well they are sleeping as they are only aware of the hours they spend awake worrying about sleep!
Experts advise that it is more useful to concentrate on preparing for sleep than using sleeping pills. There are many ways that the body can learn how to relax and eliminate factors that interfere with sleep. Alcohol, caffeine, certain foods and evening exercise can affect the body’s ability to wind down and sleep. Learning how to relax and let go of anxiety in preparation for a good night’s sleep will help adjust the mind. Improving sleep hygiene, including adapting the bedroom and eliminating any noise, will set the scene and will help if you have sleeping difficulties
After a week of investigating the causes, the diary can be used to help improve sleep. If you have been able to identify what is keeping you awake, it may be possible to make changes that will make an immediate improvement. If this involves withdrawal from caffeine, medication, alcohol or smoking make sure you take some advice to support you through the early stages.
The diary can also be used to plan and record any changes you adopt such as embarking on an exercise programme, changing diet or learning how to relax. All these will help you sleep and feel more relaxed.
Anxiety is one of the main reasons for insomnia. Stress affects the mind and body making it difficult to physically relax and mentally switch off. A diary can help you record what is worrying you and encourage you to let go of the day’s concerns. For many people suffering from insomnia, it is what happens during the day that affects sleep. It takes time to adjust to a pattern of life that will permit the mind and body to let go and drift off into a peaceful nights sleep. Trying too hard to sleep has the wrong effect. It is better to learn how to relax and try and learn ways that will help you get through the night without worrying over how much sleep you are having.
Individuals differ in the amount of sleep they need. Sleep should leave you feeling refreshed and alert and able to function during the day. A sleep diary will help you record the variations in your sleep and help you on the road to a peaceful night.