Will a Sleep Diary Give You Answers?
Whether you’re part of an official sleep study or you just want answers for yourself, one tool that will help you find the sleep that’s eluding you is a sleep diary. One of the most frustrating issues of having a sleep disorder is not knowing why it’s happening to you.
An asleep diary can help you pinpoint the reasons you’re not getting enough rest at night. There is no exact right or wrong sleep pattern, but having a diary that chronicles your clumber will help you see when (and why) your sleep schedule is making you feel deprived.
When you’re suffering from sleep disorders, your mind may not function as clearly as it does when you are getting enough sleep. A diary will help you remember the details of why you woke up, or what caused you to have trouble falling asleep.
You’ll need to record certain elements about your sleep, not just whether or not you got any. You’ll want to jot down your pre-slumber routine – were you watching Prison Break or cleaning house right before bed or did you have a fat-laden, high-caffeine meal 20 minutes before you got into bed?
Your diary can reveal habits you haven’t picked up on. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy. A simple piece of paper with grids can be all you need to create a record of your sleep. You don’t even need to be exact with timelines – if you know you went to bed around 10 PM, write it down – don’t worry if it was 9:55 PM or 10:12 PM.
Keep track of the times you wake up and what made you wake up. Did you get out of bed when you woke up? What did you do? When were you able to go back to sleep? All of these answers help the sleep study clinic (or you) hone in on what you’re doing right or wrong.
Try to keep a record of when you went to bed and woke up, how often (and for how long) you woke up during the night, what medications you were on, what you ate, any naps you took during the day, and when you felt drowsy versus when you were alert and awake.
Note to yourself whether you felt refreshed or fatigued when you woke up the next morning. Keep track of what you consumed during the day – caffeine, medications, food, etc. At different times of the day, try to note how you feel – energetic or exhausted?
Go over your sleep diary and see what changes you can make in your lifestyle habits to help alleviate your sleep disorder. If you don’t see anything apparent to your knowledge, then take the sleep diary to a doctor and have him or her read through it to see if a professionally-trained medical professional can find the issues you need to address.
I’m So Tired, So Why Can’t I Get to Sleep?
Toss, turn, yawn, stretch, shift, toss some more – but you just can’t get to sleep. When you prepared for bedtime, you were so tired you thought you might fall asleep brushing your teeth.
But the clock face flashes 1 o’clock in the morning and you’re still not asleep. If this is a regular problem, you may have insomnia. Your sleep problems may be related to other medical conditions.
Breathing problems, back or leg pain, acid reflux, and indigestion can disturb the body in ways that make sleep difficult no matter how tired you are. Emotional problems can also mess with your sleep.
If you’re feeling depressed, anxious or having obsessive thoughts, your mind just doesn’t shut down enough to allow sleep. If you experience a major loss, during the grieving period, sleep can be complicated.
Lifestyle changes can also cause sleep interruptions. Starting a new job with different hours that you are use can take time to adjust your sleep cycle. Staying up too late while watching television or surfing the Internet doesn’t give your body enough time to wind down from the day for effective sleep.
Constant stress at work or school that you just can’t let go of will definitely make a good night’s sleep elusive. Trying to drown your frustrations in alcohol, caffeine, or smoking will only cause more sleep interruption problems.
If you’re tired of being tired all the time, here’s what you can do to overcome insomnia:
- Reset your body clock by getting on a reasonable schedule. Don’t try to exhaust yourself with exercise, work or activity as a way to fall asleep. You already know that doesn’t work. Write down a schedule that allows an hour to prepare for sleep. Take a warm shower, turn off the TV and electronic communications and turn on some calming music (an instrumental CD, not the radio). Stretch and slide into bed at the time scheduled.
- Don’t focus on going to sleep, think about relaxation. Visualize a pleasant, satisfying, relaxing place and see yourself in that place.
- Gradually turn down the lights. This gives your body time to wind down better than going from the fully lit room and monitor screen to darkroom.
- As you are resetting the sleep cycle and find yourself getting tired too early, increase your light exposure. Go outdoors in the sunshine or turn up the light in the room. The body responds to light and dark cues for sleep.
- Cease any work or stressful activity at least three hours before bedtime. Let go of the frustrations and allow your mind to focus on less intense things.
When insomnia can’t be managed by another means or interferes too much with normal activities, you may need to get prescription medication. Whatever you do, don’t self medicate with over-the-counter sleep aids at night and wake-up pills during the day. That makes the problem worse. Don’t take any sleep medications unless monitored by a physician. You want to cure insomnia not acquire a drug problem.
How Sleep Deprivation Wreaks Havoc on Your Body and Mind
Getting enough sleep is essential to both your body and your mind. If you don’t get enough sleep, you might not notice the effects – if you only miss one night of getting the right amount.
But go more than one night of not getting enough sleep and your body and your mind start to pay a price for it. Of course, the first thing you’ll notice is that you’re feeling tired and sleepy.
Sleep acts as a restoration period for the body and mind. It restores and replenishes the body, heals aching muscles and can soothe aches and pains. Without the right amount of sleep, we run our energy level into a deficit.
Sleep deprivation then beings to show up in three ways: mentally, emotionally and physically. Mentally, the brain becomes affected by a lack of sleep and this shows up in trouble remembering even simple tasks.
It causes you to begin to forget important data. You might have trouble following what you’re supposed to do at work or what’s going on with your family. As the sleep deprivation continues, you’ll lose more cognitive ability.
When you’re driving, you’ll react slower to traffic signals, the moves of other vehicles and you’ll be at increased risk of causing or being unable to avoid an accident. You won’t be able to concentrate or pay attention.
You’ll become disoriented and if the sleep deprivation isn’t stopped. You may begin to experience hallucinations. You’ll make more mistakes, and if others are depending on you at work or home, those mistakes could have serious repercussions. You may start to experience short-term memory loss.
Sleep deprivation shows up emotionally, too. You may become irritable even for no reason. You may be angry and take that out on others. You can experience anxiety and depression.
Studies have shown that getting enough sleep is closely tied to emotional well-being. Sleep deprivation can cause you to engage in behavior you wouldn’t normally do, like taking foolish risks with your safety or engaging in heated fights with others.
Another way that sleep deprivation wreaks havoc is in the body. You will become clumsy and less coordinated. You may start to drop things without warning. You’ll experience muscle aches, pains, and spasms.
A lack of sleep that’s caused by a sleep disorder can cause painful Charley horses to occur. With a loss of sleep, your blood pressure begins to climb and your stress level mounts. Your organs can become affected.
You’ll put on weight – and sleep deprivation elevates your chance of having a stroke, heart attack or developing diabetes. Because sleep deprivation weakens your immune system, you can lose the ability to fight off even a simple virus.
Not getting enough sleep can cause muscle weakness, eye problems, slurred speech and an inability to communicate. If you’re experiencing sleep deprivation, don’t wait until you begin experiencing severe symptoms to seek a solution.