How A Sleep Diary Can Help Diagnose Sleep Apnea

There are 22 million people in the United States who struggle with sleep apnea. It’s a common disease that often goes undiagnosed by medical professionals. In this article, we’re going to look at how a simple sleep diary or sleep journal can help diagnose your sleep apnea. We’re also going to look at what sleep apnea is and inform you what the best sleep diary is. Let’s dive in! 

What is sleep apnea? 

Sleep apnea is a possibly serious condition where a person frequently stops breathing in the middle of their sleep. The person will resume breathing at a normal rate, but the worse the sleep apnea gets, the more frequently they stop and start breathing. People who snore loudly or feel tired after a full night’s sleep probably struggle with some form of sleep apnea. 

There are three types of sleep apnea: obstructive, central, and complex. 

Obstructive sleep apnea 

This is the most common form of sleep apnea and typically happens when the throat muscles get too relaxed. 

Central sleep apnea 

Central sleep apnea is a neurological problem and happens when your brain doesn’t send the right signals to your muscles that control breathing functions. 

Complex sleep apnea syndrome 

This is the most serious type of sleep apnea and occurs when someone suffers from obstructive and central sleep apnea. 

Symptoms of sleep apnea 

Here are some symptoms of sleep apnea. If you show any of them, make sure to see a medical professional to diagnose the issue. 

  • Snoring 
  • Irregular breathing during sleep 
  • Gasping for breath while you sleep 
  • Waking with a dry mouth 
  • Morning headache
  • Difficulty staying asleep (insomnia)
  • Excessive daytime sleepiness (hypersomnia)
  • Difficulty paying attention while awake
  • Irritability

The importance of catching these symptoms early cannot be overstated. That’s where the sleep diary comes into play. Take note of your sleeping habits and keep track of them. 

How can a sleep diary help diagnose my sleep apnea?  

There’s nothing cryptic about a sleep diary. It is exactly what it sounds like – a diary or journal to document your sleep. Just as an everyday diary is used to document your life’s details and inner thoughts, a sleep diary is used to document your sleeping and dreams. It’s easy to forget details and nuances about your sleeping habits which is why it’s important to keep track of your sleep diary. 

Sleep diaries aren’t just to document your sleeping habits. You should also keep track of your daily activities and follow it up with tracking how you sleep later that night. People don’t realize that what you do during the day and what you eat and drink affect how you sleep. Keeping careful track of the details of your everyday life can be crucial to helping your doctors pinpoint your sleep apnea. 

The more comprehensive and in-depth your sleep diary is, the better. There may be details that you don’t think about, but that can be the key to a doctor helping you out. Here are some of the symptoms of sleep apnea that a sleep diary can help diagnose. 

  • Insomnia
  • Narcolepsy
  • Restless Leg Syndrome
  • Irregular Heart Beat
  • Delayed Sleep Phase Disorder
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Neurological Disorders
  • Respiratory Illness 


Each of these issues can be related to sleep apnea, and it’s important to keep track of whether or not it’s happening to you. 

What to include in your sleep diary 

When filling out your sleep diary, you can’t include too much information. Every piece of information is crucial to your team of medical doctors down to the tiniest detail. When your doctor advises you to use a sleep diary, they will give you specific instructions about what to include, but the odds are that it will be very extensive. 

Everyday details that you might take for granted could be the key to solving the mystery of your sleep apnea. It’s important to write in your sleep diary every day and never miss one. You’ll probably also want to fill out a sleep log form to keep track of when you wake up in the middle of the night. You’ll likely have to keep careful track for three to four weeks so that your doctor has enough data to make an assessment. 

While the exact sleep journal template will vary from doctor to doctor, here is mostly what will need to be included. 

Logs of your daily sleep schedule 

Keeping careful logs of your sleep schedule and your everyday habits is essential. 

  • When do you normally fall asleep? 
  • Do you struggle to fall asleep? If so, how long does it usually take? 
  • How often do you wake up at night, and how long does it take to fall back asleep? 
  • When do you awake each morning? 

An estimated amount of actual sleep you get each night 

How much rest you get can indicate sleep apnea or other health issues. 

  • The amount of time you sleep at night. 
  • What time do you wake up? 
  • Is there any reason in particular that you woke up? 
  • Do you feel energetic in the mornings?
  • What were your emotions and energy level when you woke up? 

A record of medications taken

Medications may play a role in your ability to get a good nights’ sleep. 

  • What medications do you take? 
  • What was the dose of the medication you took was. 
  • What time do you take your meds? 
  • What are the side effects? 

A record of your physical activity and exercise 

Regular physical activity is critical for a variety of health reasons. 

  • The amount of time you spend exercising. 
  • What kind of exercises do you do? 
  • What was your exertion level?
  • Did you feel different after you exercised? 
  • Do you sit a lot during the day? 
  • Did you exert yourself physically in any other ways throughout the day? Make not of physical labor or intercourse. 

Thorough tracking of energy levels and sleepiness throughout the day

It’s important to identify any patterns in your sleep levels. 

  • At what point during the day did you feel most energetic and tired? 
  • Does food make you tired? 
  • Was your drowsiness sudden or slow? 

A record of eating habits

The foods you consume can play a role in your overall health. 

  • When and what do your meals consist of?
  • Are you hungrier at certain times of the day? 
  • How heavy are your meals throughout the day? 
  • Do you eat between main meals? 

Final Thoughts 

As you can see, the sleep journal is extremely extensive, but that’s an important part of diagnosing your sleep apnea. If left undiagnosed, sleep apnea can lead to more serious conditions and be extremely detrimental to your health. Take care of yourself and invest in a sleep diary today.