Over the past few months (possibly longer), you’ve lost valuable time and energy to poor sleep and it’s seriously starting to take a toll on your mental wellbeing. No matter how hard you try, you just can’t seem to get it to all click into place.
You’ve started telling yourself the story that you’re “just a bad sleeper” or that you’re “a night owl” or simply you’re just “not somebody who sleeps very much”. But did you know that these stories you tell yourself play much more of an important role in your sleep patterns and habits that you might realise?
Bowing down to the belief that you’re just a slave to bad sleep is a sure-fire way to reinforce those patterns. Yes, it’s complex and no, you’re not to blame. But there are scientifically supported ways (that is, backed by empirical evidence) to start to gain control of your sleep patterns and habits that centre the mind-body connection. And it all starts with intention – taking responsibility and making the decision to create change.
In doing so, one of the biggest tools at your disposal is your awareness. That means being conscious of the things that impact your mind, your mood and your ability to do certain things, and being pro-active in managing them for your own benefit.
In terms of successfully tracking your sleep to identify possible cause-and-effect patterns, it’s important to look closely at the things that might be preventing you from getting adequate sleep, be it mental, emotional, physiological, or environmental.
I ran a 4-day sleep challenge back in March of this year as I know so many had their sleep cycles thrown into turmoil after the previous year, and the disruption and anxiety it brought with it. An instrumental part of the challenge was the Sleep Diaries, which I sent out to participants so they could keep track of their sleeping patterns and habits, and identify any factors that might be disrupting their sleep.
In this blog post, I’ll be equipping you with the same tools that you need to start tracking your sleep successfully, making actionable changes and achieving your sleep goals.
So, firstly, in order to get crystal clear on your current sleep goals and where you’re starting from, ask yourself:
1) Where your sleep is at currently – how many hours do you spend in bed? How many hours do you spend asleep?
2) What is your primary sleep goal? (e.g. to fall asleep quicker, sleep without waking, stop waking early, wake up refreshed)
3) How would you currently rate your sleep on a scale from 1 to 10?
4) Where would you like to get your sleep on a scale from 1 to 10?
5) What would moving one point up the scale look like for you?
6) What do you think is preventing you from sleeping? (e.g. overthinking, inactivity during the day, negative thoughts, parenting, body discomfort, pain, loud noises, light)
7) What do you need to improve on? (e.g. napping, inactivity, time in bed not sleeping)
8) What is the one thing you are going to focus on?
9) What can you do to re-set your body clock? (e.g. having a set bed time and waking time, getting sunlight early in the morning)
Write down your answers to these initial questions, either in a journal or a Word document. You only need to answer these questions once at the beginning of your journey, and in 30 days time you can reflect on how far you’ve come, and then again at 60 days when you can introduce new goals if necessary.
Now – getting actionable with daily tracking. These are the important metrics you should be recording in order to start successfully tracking your sleep. You should do this every single day, keeping your goals, intentions and motivations clear in your mind, for a minimum for 30 days (ideally 60).
Make a note of your data in a journal or Word document. If you miss a day by accident, don’t worry, just pick back up again the following day.
The metrics are:
1) The time you got into bed
2) The time you tried to start going to sleep
3) How long it took you to fall asleep
4) How many times you woke up, not including your final waking
5) How long you were awake total
6) The time you eventually woke up
7) If you woke up earlier than planned; if yes, how much earlier?
8) What time you got out of bed for the day
9) How long you slept in total
10) How you rate the quality of your sleep from 1 to 10
11) If you napped or dozed, and if so for how long?
12) How many drinks containing alcohol you had
13) How many caffeinated drinks you had
14) The time you had your last caffeinated drink
15) If you took any over-the-counter or prescription medications to help you sleep
16) What you did to relax before bed (e.g. meditation, yoga, guided hypnosis, ASMR, special lighting)
17) How you felt when getting into bed – what emotions were coming up for you? What thoughts were on your mind?
18) How were you feeling in your body?
19) What sensory experiences were you having when you got into bed? Was it dark and quiet, or bright and noisy?
Collecting this data over the course of 30-60 days will help you to identify relationships between the amount of sleep you’re getting/times you’re waking and the mental, emotional, physiological or environmental contributing factors to your poor sleep.
Doing so allows you to take action towards alleviating those specific issues and improving your sleep health and overall quality of life.
I know it seems like quite a lot, but once you get into the habit it shouldn’t be too time-consuming and you will find your flow with it! Consistency really is key, and a healthy dose of determination. After all, it will be worth it when you’re sleeping more soundly than ever before, and feel like you finally have yourself back. Trust me, I know how that feels.
Before I had kids (AKA my little human alarms!), sleep was a massive issue in my life. No matter how exhausted I was (and believe me, I was exhausted), I would toss, turn, overthink, clock watch, and feel increasingly more anxious and frustrated seeing the time slip away. Then I would struggle to get up in the morning, snoozing the alarm about 5 times. I used to have to have about 4 different alarms to get me up in the morning, including 1 on the other side of the room.
Training in CBTi (Cognitive Behaviour Therapy for insomnia) has been so valuable in helping me to better understand the mind-body connection when it comes to sleep, demystifying what sleep actually is and how our body’s work, effectively applying that knowledge to help myself and then extending that knowledge and support to others just like you.
There is a soft, low light at the end of the tunnel! I hope this has been helpful and I would absolutely love for you to get in touch and let me know how you get on, but if you require specialist, 1:1 support to turn your chaotic sleep into a restful ritual, book in a free Discovery call with me here and let’s chat about changing things up!
Take care everybody, sending you lots of love