What is the nature of my sleep problem?

To be able to answer this question for yourselves it is most important to read the information on sleepdisorders on this site. The basic message is that there are three types of sleepdisorder: the insomnia’s, excessive daytime sleepiness and disorders that result from specific abnormalities occurring during the night.

The type of sleepdisorder that this site is aimed at is insomnia. For the other types of disorders you may need to consult your GP.

The sleep diary

To be able to gain some insight in the pattern of sleeping, collecting information on this is most important.. The easiest way to collect this information is to keep a sleepdiary. In such a diary you can record every morning how the past night has been. The reason for doing this is:

Judging sleeppatterns going through one’s memory is not sufficient. Sleeppaterns vary, and it is very difficult to remember all the necessary details from weeks back
When you are trying to change things in your sleeppattern, it is important to be able to compare the ‘new’ sleeppattern with the ‘old’ one.
Sleepdiaries can get information that can be relevant in deciding what exactly to do
A sleepdiary can look as follows:

Sleep Diary
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
in bed at:
out of bed at:
fell asleep in: (min.)
time slept
number of times awake
quality of sleep*
day-time functioning*

*1= very bad 2= bad 3= reasonable 4= good 5= very good

A number of things are important:

The part of the sleepdiary that matters most is how you feel during the day. When you are feeling well rested during the day, more likely than not, you are getting enough sleep. In this case the problem may very well be that the expectancy of the duration of sleep differs from what your body needs. A lot of people think that they need at least 8 hours of sleep, while this is often (especially when getting older) not the case.
What is the mean time you need to fall asleep. As mentioned before, it is difficult to give a maximum time, but very often a maximum of about a half hour is used.
The number of times you wake up during the night can be important. Ask yourself what the cause could be. Sleeping during the day? More coffee than normal, other fluids or alcohol?
Is there a difference between weekends or hollidays and the rest of the week? Is the sleeping environment different? Less stress? Different hours getting up or in?
The sleepdiary enables you to compare your sleeppattern as it is now, as a sort of ‘baseline’ with the situation after you change your sleephabits. Therefore: please keep your diary throughout the whole period of change.