Most people searching for a cure for insomnia do not want the bother of keeping a sleep diary. "What's the point," they say, "I already know I can not sleep, so why bother writing down the details?"
The answer is really quite simple. In order to find a cure for insomnia, you have to understand what's causing it. And in order to get to the real causes, you have to know all the specific details. That includes the minority yet very important pattens that make up your own personal version of chronic insomnia.
A sleep diary will reveal these gems of information that will lead to the ultimate cure for insomnia.
How to Start a Sleep Diary
You do not need a fancy bound book. Any old spiral-bound notebook you have hanging around the house will do fine. Keep it next to your bedside along with a pen so you can write in it just before you get out of bed in the morning. If you do not have it within easy reach, you will never use it!
What to Write in Your Sleep Diary
First, you need to write about your sleep schedule: what time you went to bed and when you got up.
Next, write down how many total hours of sleep you got. If you do not know for certain, just guess. If you were wake and restless until 4:00 AM and then can not remember what happened until your alarm rang at 6:30 AM, you can be safe in assuming you got somewhere around two and a half hours of sleep.
Note: when chronic insomniacs finally sleep, it often does not feel like real sleep – in fact, it's more like a black-out or brief amnesia – because of the combination of exhaustion and restlessness that's so typical in a long-term case of insomnia.
Now keep in mind there are many patterns of insomnia, and they can vary from one night to another. So if your insomnia pattern is one of sleep, wake, sleep, wake … or wake, wake, wake, sleep … or sleep, wake, wake … and so on … write that down in your sleep diary.
Next, write down what you did while you were wake during the night. Did you wander around the house and end up in the kitchen for a snack? Did you watch TV or go on the internet? Did you turn on any lights? All of these trivial details are important to include in your sleep diary.
Next, write down what physical complaints and discomforts, if any, you experienced during the night. Any indigestion, gas, heartburn? Pain or numbness? Headaches? Itching? Involuntary movements, like twitching or restless limbs that seemed to have a mind of their own? Breathing problems or sinus congestion or tickles in the throat? Hot flashes or sweating? You get the idea here. It's all fascinating sleeping diary material.
Next, write about the thoughts and feelings flowing through your mind while you were awake. How did you feel? Were you angry and frustrated? Were you depressed and grieving? Were you angry and worried? Maybe excited and energetic? Tense and wired up?
And what were you thinking about? Were you beating yourself up about your insomnia? Were you worried about a specific problem like how to pay your bills? Were you thinking about how miserable you would feel the next day? Regretting a lost opportunity? Fuming over an insult by the boss at work? Wondering how you will ever get all your work done? Working out the details of your next big project? Fantasizing about winning the lottery?
You see there are really endless thoughts possibilities, but do not let that stop you. It's really important to write them all down, as much as you can remember.
Finally, you should write down how you felt when you finally got out of bed. Were you very tired? Did you feel like you could finally fall sleep right at the exact moment you had to drag yourself out of bed? Or were you wide awake, restless, nervous? Did you have any aches or pains? What were your thoughts about the coming day? Were you excited and eager to start? Depressed and wishing you could stay in bed all day?
How Long You Should Keep a Sleep Diary
Keep it for a week at the very minimum. Two weeks is better. One month is best. Longer than that will probably just yield repetitive information, so you can quit your sleep diary after one month. Then it's time to go through what you have written and detect the all-important patterns and specifics that pertain to your own insomnia. Then you get going on the cure for insomnia!