If you're having trouble sleeping, the first step to solving the problem is to figure out why it's occurring.
If you've read our post on whether sleep trackers actually lead to better sleep, you already know the answer: well…sometimes. So how do you get the most out of that Fitbit or Jawbone? The fact is, you can't fix anything just by seeing sleep tracking data. That's like your mechanic lifting the hood of your car, saying "Yup, looks broken!" then closing it and sending you home. Knowing something's wrong isn't useful unless you know why - and how to fix it. With this in mind, one way to maximize your sleep tracker data is by using a sleep journal to figure out what's affecting your sleep.
Knowing something's wrong isn't useful unless you know why - and how to fix it.
How Do Sleep Journals Work?
"Sleep journaling" just consists of making a few notes in the morning and in the evening, perhaps over the course of a week or two of daily life. Your days vary, and your sleep varies too - sometimes you sleep better, sometimes worse, and that's completely normal. But maybe after a couple weeks of sleep journaling you'll notice a pattern to your nights of little sleep; and maybe, with your sleep journal, you can relate that pattern to something in your life - when you're drinking caffeine, when you're exercising, what you're eating, medication you're taking. Sometimes we don't really recognize our habits until we keep track.
How Do I Keep a Sleep Journal?
Get a pad of paper or a small notebook and put it by your bed. Every morning right when you wake up, and every night right before you go to sleep, spend 5 minutes writing some notes. The National Sleep Foundation recommends a sleep journal that tracks a handful of things - how you slept, whether you drank caffeine or took medications, whether you napped or exercised, your mood, etc. Here are some sample sleep journals based on the National Sleep Foundation guide to get you started (feel free to print them out and use them - you can add columns for each day of the week):
Need more support to get your sleep journaling started? Tweet us @kalasleep and we'd be happy to do what we can to help!