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Behavior Change: Data Collection Journals & Charts

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A huge body of research on behavior modification reports that individuals can replace old habits with new behavior. The goal of this site is to offer you healthy lifestyle behavior changes, which include implementing new behaviors in exchange of letting go of habits that no longer serve your best interest. After learning about the healthy lifestyle habits you will need a way to document your progress of changed behaviors by collecting some data. The process of change will run into some barriers and some data can allow you to problem solve so you can make individual adjustments. 

I will provide plenty of information in the blogs to assist you in reaching your lifestyle goals. You will also find on the site brief overviews of the lifestyle changes/ activities to implement. The lifestyle activities have some basic order, it starts with sleep, then nutrition, exercise and after that any order can be successful. I will provide many tools that can be used to track implementation of the activities, tools to monitor progress and problem solve bumps in the road.

Please do not get alarmed by the word “data” for the purpose of this context it will be easy such as making a tally, marking a + or -, or using symbols like a check mark. It is simple and the charts are already made for you. (The charts will be added in April 2021). We are going to start with the first and most important lifestyle change, sleep. I will introduce you to two forms of data collection for sleep.

Sleep Logs

The sleep log  is the most important collection of data you can keep. It allows you to collect meaningful information to share with your doctor. Many symptoms can be related to medications, such as, the time you take them, feeling sleepy/groggy, too energized at night, and indicators of upcoming episodes.

You can significantly improve your health and functioning by taking the short amount of time, less than 10 seconds, to jot down the information. It made the biggest impact on my health. If your sleep is not right, you will not  be able to implement healthy life changes and maintain them. For individuals with mood disorders, and many mental health illnesses, sleep is negatively impacts quality of life and overall functioning. 

I kept a journal too that documented the quality of sleep I had each night. 

  • Documented my sleep hygiene. [turned off my phone and other screens an hour before bed, limited caffeine intake to 10 am, took a shower right before bed, and practiced some meditation (counting) to try and initiate sleep.] I journaled if I did it or portions of it each night.
  • Difficulty falling asleep, 
  • Difficulty staying asleep
  • Difficulty waking up 
  • The number of times I was awake and out of bed, and if I was able to fall back to sleep. 
  • I noted symptoms, like sweating and chills
  • Waking feeling drugged, and not able to hold my eyes open
  • Waking and not being able to stay awake and get out of bed
  • Did I go back to bed right away, how long did I stay there
  • Did I wake with too little sleep and felt energized, if that lasted all day and into the night 
  • If I napped, and how long (did I feel rested of groggy)
  • Recorded what I did when I was up in the middle of the night, did I need to change a pattern (like eating, or getting on my computer) with a more relaxing activity like reading. 

As a result, with all my new data, I went to my doctor with a lot more information than just saying, “I can’t sleep”. The data allowed us to problem solve the situation and come up with better  solutions. As a result, the information led to me changing the time I took some medications, and we added a sleep medication to help me stay asleep. 

My sleep improved and I could function and actually do healthy activities. After overcoming that battle, I felt like I had some control of my life, a basic need was met and I could keep a sleep routine which set the tone for my day. Being sleep deprived limited me from having the energy to exercise and the deprivation of rest made make unhealthy food choices. I began working on exercise and nutrition activities next and found success because I had the energy to engage and saw the efforts come to fruition. 

Data

There are two ways that I collected the sleep data, one was a journal and the second was a daily chart that resembles a calendar. I started with the journal to just document what I observed happening. After a week or two of review I found a few patterns that I wanted more information on. Information I knew that I needed to be able to have a conversation with my doctor about. You will find copies of examples of the charts in the store (in April 2021) but I will describe them here.

Feel free to make your own way to keep information, (we will cover them later). People often want to avoid anything that has to do with data, but it is nothing to worry about. We will learn how to take journal entries and transfer them into graphs. Ones you can draw or if you prefer we can use fancy one from some software or google docs/sheets. I’ll provide options later.

The Journal

The journal can be a notebook or an actual journal. I just made daily entries about the information I was collecting. Here it was for sleep. 

  • Write down the date, 
  • Details about my sleep routine.
  • Add information about the number of times I woke, 
  • Write the time I actually fell asleep and woke, 
  • Ass any details listed above. 
  • Note how you felt during the day (energized, fine, groggy, moody, etc.) 

The purpose of the journal is to gather information. For example, I later reviewed my week and looked for patterns. Maybe I’d find that I drank coffee at 3pm everyday, or had to nap and felt worse when I woke. I found a few problems and decide to make a chart so I could see how frequent it was a problem. In the example below I chose: difficulty falling asleep, difficulty staying asleep, difficulty falling back to sleep. I also kept some notes, I was interested in how long I was staying awake. I knew my doctor would want to know what time I was trying to go to bed and wanted to wake, so I also noted that information each day.  

The Chart

I was looking for a pattern of frequent behaviors that were the most problematic for me. I documented the sleep patterns, difficulty waking, the number of times I woke and how long I was awake when I woke. I found that I was waking very often and staying awake for more that 3 hours. I did have difficulty falling asleep some but the other behaviors ocured more frequently. 

I used a calendar like chart that had the date in each square. I made a symbol for 🔲 difficulty falling asleep, 🔴 difficulty staying asleep ◃ and difficulty falling back to sleep. Then I wrote the hours I stayed awake, the amount of time I slept, noted when I tried to go to bed and when I wanted to wake up.

Example 

Entry: Date/2/15/21  Date of Behaviors: 🔲, 🔴, Notes: 4, 3hours, 8:00 – 5:00. 

I will show you later how you add this into a chart so  your doctor can take a look and see the pattern easily. That’s important because your doctor is not going to have time to read a month worth of journaling, typically you have 15min so a single graph does the trick. That will be a future blog in April 2021. So be looking for that information. It can really help getting the care you need.

I didn’t realize that I was struggling to stay asleep before I collected the data, and I was actually telling the doctor I couldn’t fall asleep. After we reviewed my chart the doctor had accurate information. As a result, we found the right sleep medication to help me stay asleep, and like magic I was sleeping. I kept the chart and found that I was not doing the sleep hygiene routine consistently. I was drinking coffee late in the day, I didn’t follow the routine at night, (screens off, brush teeth, drink some weather, listen to a book, shower and go directly to bed.) I made adjustments and held myself accountable and guess what, I started falling asleep right away. 

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