Using the Sleep Diary to Assess the Bedtime Routine

The self-improvement challenge for this quarter is to improve the quality of sleep. Last week we reviewed how to set up and use a sleep diary. This week we’ll be reviewing the bedtime routine and how to assess it based upon the notes in that sleep diary.

The first time I wrote about the bedtime routine it was about setting up a visual checklist to use and it was during a time in my life when things were very hectic. This time around, my life is less hectic but I still need to reassess the bedtime to routine in order to pinpoint what hinders or aids in quality sleep.

Check the Bedtime Routine

So here is what my default template looks like:

You can get a free copy of this Open Office template here.

Make the Assessment

So the first thing to do here is to take a look at your bedtime routine and compare it to your sleep diary to answer a few questions.

  1. Are actually following your bedtime routine?
    1. If not, change the list to reflect what you’re actually doing based upon your sleep diary.
    2. If this is your first time using a routine checklist, just list out what you’re actually doing based upon the sleep diary you’ve kept so far.
  2. Does this routine have a fixed time for it to start each night?
  3. Of the things on this list, what do you believe is helping you to fall asleep?
  4. Of the things on this list, what do you believe is hindering your ability to fall asleep?
  5. What increased stress at the time of sleep?
  6. What reduced stress at the time of sleep?
  7. Are there things that you need to add or remove from this list?

Look at the notes from your sleep diary to answer each question. Remember, your sleep diary should have when you went to sleep, when you got up, the total time slept, and the quality of that sleep. It should also have notes on anything else related to sleep.

Make the Adjustments

It’s important to keep this routine as simple as possible. All the activities on this list need to be aimed at completing the stress cycle and be non-stimulating. The idea here is to queue the brain that it’s time for sleep, not time to be up and about doing stuff.

If you make changes to your bedtime routine, it’s best to make one change per week or two at a time. This makes it easier for you to tell what helps and what doesn’t.

Review Regularly

It’s important to compare our bedtime routine with our sleep diary, or mood tracker, periodically to ensure that our routine is promoting quality sleep. Using a tracker or diary in tandem with the routine allows us to make adjustments to keep our routine in alignment with our goal. This is true for any routine and goal we may have.

If you’re just starting out with using a sleep diary, or mood tracker, and a bedtime routine then you will need to review and assess often until you have a system that works for you. Once you have something that feels right, you can reduce your reviews to roughly every season to make sure everything is in top form unless a problem pops up.

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