A scientist's unproven idea is called a hypothesis. The next step would be is to test a hypothesis to see if it is true. This is what we will do now with help of a sleep log.
By analyzing your sleep log you will have a better idea of what might be causing your insomnia, which factors cause you to sleep poorly, and which treatments or changes will most likely help you to sleep better.
This detective work may last for many weeks, but it is one of the most important steps. A sleep log is the most efficient way to discover what is causing your particular insomnia.
Start by recording what happened, what did you did during the day, and how you slept the following night.
- During the day, record the events of the day, your feelings, and other various factors that you are testing. These can be things such as:
- Amount of caffeine, alcohol, and smoking
- Amount and type of exercise and other physical activity
- Daytime naps
- Upsets at work, conflicts with family members, or emotional factors (tension, anger, anxiety, etc.)
- Time and type of evening meal
- Evening activities (like telephone calls or computer time)
- Sleeping medications
- Physical factors (like room temperature, outside noises, and other disturbances).
- Anything else that you may think that can be causing your poor sleep. Think of all the variables (even hunches).
- In the morning, write down:
- How long it took you to fall asleep
- How many times did you wake up during the night
- How long did you sleep during the night (how many hours)
- When did you wake up, by alarm or earlier
- How refreshed you felt in the morning
- Rate the overall quality of the night's sleep.
Don't hesitate to develop your own theories and setup your own experiments.
It is important to vary your evaluation factors during the insomnia test. For example, you cannot determine how coffee causes your poor sleep if you drink the same amount of coffee each day that you are investigating it. There needs to be variation.
On the other hand, if the amount of coffee is not the criteria that you are testing at the moment, keep it steady so that it does not interfere with the other factors that you are studying.
After you have filled out your sleep log for two weeks, analyze it. Pick out one or two of the best nights and one or two of the worst nights and look for correlations with the test factors that you evaluated.
Your sleep log will also tell you what does NOT affect your sleep.
For example, some insomniacs eat bland diets in the hope that they will sleep better, regardless of the fact that they had eaten the same diet for two years and still did not sleep better. Other insomniacs were told that reading in bed before sleep was a bad idea, so they lay in bed for years without reading. However, still not sleeping.
Again, remember that what works for some people could have completely different effect for others. Your goal is to figure out what causes YOUR particular sleep problem.