A high percentage of gamers report having issues with sleep. The reasons for those sleep issues can be many and varied, but certain gaming habits—such as late gaming hours, eating late or poorly, too much exposure to artificial blue light, stress from intense action games, etc.—seem to play a big role. However, figuring out just which of those habits play the biggest role in determining your sleep quality is an important factor in improving your sleep for the long haul.

In this earlier post, we discussed some of the things gamers can do to help improve their sleep on the whole, including wearing blue light glasses while playing. And in this post, we discuss ways to help your body “switch off” after gaming before bed. But to help pinpoint which factors are hurting or helping your sleep the most—and then to help monitor changes or improvements—it really helps to keep a sleep diary.

What is a sleep diary?

A sleep diary or journal is essentially a log of your sleep patterns and habits that affect those patterns. Personally, it can help you become more aware of and intentional about your sleep habits. But it can also help your doctor diagnose specific sleep issues, if you have them, and figure out the best course to treat them. Sleep diaries typically involve tracking several or all of the following:

  • The times you went to bed and woke up
  • The amount of time it took to fall asleep
  • If you woke up in the night, how many times, and at what times
  • What factors could have affected your sleep or disturbed you in the night
  • If you dreamt and whether the dreams were restful or stressful
  • How you felt in the morning when you woke up (refreshed and awake, somewhat refreshed but still tired, fatigued, etc.)
  • How you felt throughout the day, energy-wise (very sleepy, somewhat tired, fairly alert, wide awake and energized, etc.)
  • What you ate or drank before bed, including caffeine and alcohol
  • For some people, it’s best to track what they consumed throughout the entire day, as things early in the day can still affect your sleep at night hours later.
  • If you took medications, which ones, and at what times
  • If you exercised and for how long
  • If you napped during the day, for how long, and at what times
  • Any activities done within an hour of bed

For examples of sleep diaries, see Medline Plus, the National Sleep Foundation, and the UK National Health Institute Clinical Sleep Research Unit.

For gamers, it’s also particularly helpful to record gaming-specific information, such as:

  • If you played video games and for how long, along with your start and end times
  • What specific games or kind of games you played
  • If you played with others or alone
  • If you took breaks and when
  • If you wore gaming glasses

It may not be feasible to track all of these things every day, but even knowing a handful of these data points from each day will help paint a fuller picture of what’s affecting your sleep and how you can make improvements.

Why write a sleep diary?

Doctors and sleep specialists alike recommend keeping a sleep diary for many reasons. As indicated above, sleep diaries help you (and your doctor) take stock of the various factors and habits from your day-to-day that affect your sleep quality at night. Tracking your habits helps you notice both patterns and inconsistencies that may be playing a role in the quality of your sleep.

The information you log can then help you determine which habits you can isolate and change in order to make a positive impact. If you want to get to the root of the problem, it’s important to not change too many things at one time, because it will be harder to pinpoint which thing had the greatest impact. Change just one variable at a time.

Tips for a successful sleep diary

As you start writing your sleep diary, there are a few things that can help make it a successful and definitively beneficial exercise:

Be specific. You will not remember everything unless you write it down, and sometimes it’s the little details that make the biggest difference. In order to really figure out what is affecting you the most, it’s best to write as many specifics as you can.

Be consistent. Again, you won’t remember everything unless you write it down. But even more so, you won’t be able to track your habits with certainty unless you make your sleep journaling a consistent practice. This doesn’t need to be something that lasts a lifetime, or even many months. All it takes is a few weeks of information to show patterns and see areas that could use improvement. But without consistency, you can’t know for certain which areas those would be.

Use apps. If it will help you stay consistent, use technology to help you out! There are all kinds of apps that can help you track some, if not all, of the factors. Sleep Cycle and Sleep Score are user favorites, and if you have a Sleep Number bed, you can use their embedded SleepIQ technology, too.

If you’re already a sleep diary pro, do you have other tips to share? Let us know what’s worked for you in the comments below!