How do I use a sleep diary with my child?

It’s common for children to have disturbed sleep from time to time. If you’re worried, a sleep diary can help you understand what’s causing difficulties. You can use it to spot patterns and make changes to help.  

This activity is most useful if your child is between six months and five years old.

Sleep diary - girl sleeping with teddy

What does a sleep diary look like?

A sleep diary is a table that you fill in to track your child’s sleep. You can add sections like:  

  • Date or day. 
  • Time and length of naps. 
  • Bedtime routine (time, activities, environment). 
  • Bedtime (time, whether they settled, what you did). 
  • Time they fell asleep. 
  • Time slept and length of waking. 
  • Time woke in the morning. 
  • Reflections.  

      You can make your own sleep diary, or print a template (PDF).   

      How to get started

      Allow two weeks of using the sleep diary before looking for any patterns. Try to fill it out every evening and record as much as you can. It might sometimes feel hard to find time, especially if you’re tired, but you can keep your notes brief. If you miss a night, write down as much as you can remember.  

      Look for patterns

      Once the two weeks is up, see if you notice any reasons your child might be struggling to sleep or waking often.  

      This could include: 

      • Naps – were they consistent, was your child’s sleep disturbed on days when their routine changed?  
      • Bedtime – was this similar most evenings, how did any changes affect their sleep? 
      • Hours – how much sleep was your child getting each night? 
      • Waking – did you child wake often throughout the night?  
      • Settling – were there days they took longer to settle, and what had happened that day? 

        If there were times when your child slept better, look at that day and the day before to see what might have affected this. Do the same with days where your child struggled to sleep.  

        Find more support  

        If you’re unsure about any patterns or need support, try taking the diary to your health visitor or GP. You could also speak to your local children’s centre. They may be able to offer advice on things to try.  

        Want more support? For advice on your specific issue, speak to one of our parenting coaches.

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