If you're awoken by your worries, and an inability to stop ‘thinking’ at night, you're not alone. Bedtime worry is a significant contributor to difficulty falling, and staying, asleep. And often, these night-time anxieties keeping us awake are very valid – we all seem to have a never ending list of to-do's!
Studies from the Journal of Experimental Psychology found writing in a journal before bed can help to prepare your mind and body to facilitate a more peaceful, restorative sleep.
The thought of keeping a Journal may seem time-consuming, and even daunting if you haven’t done it before. However, keeping a journal could be the best thing to do for your sleep and wellbeing. Keeping your eyes away from a screen, and putting pen to paper can come with a whole range of benefits, espeically if you who struggle to sleep because you spend too long in bed worrying.
So, here are three ways journaling before bed can help prepare you for much-needed rest!
1. Brainstorm your thoughts
All you need is a sleep journal and a pen. Twenty minutes before laying down to sleep, brainstorm everything that’s racing through your mind, specifically anything that may have you feeling unsettled or anxious; including a to-do list for the following day.
This transfer from mind to paper allows us the power to tell ourselves, “it’s already been addressed and is under control – I don’t need to worry about it now”. When you can see all your worries written down in black and white, you feel as if you have begun to deal with your anxieties. This prevents your mind from focusing on it later when we’re trying to achieve settled, peaceful sleep.
2. Be grateful
One of the most effective ways to create a sense of calm and happiness before bed is to make a habit of reflecting on the things you are grateful for in life, and the positives that you experienced throughout the day.
Feelings of gratitude directly activate brain regions associated with the neurotransmitter dopamine. In the ground-breaking TED talk, The happy secret to better work, Shawn Achor says the key is writing down three things you're grateful for and then describing in detail one positive experience you had that day. It sounds corny, but the simple act of focusing on the positive aspects of our life can completely change our level of happiness and contentment.
3. Recognise your habits
Not only can journaling reduce stress, and help calm the mind, but it also allows us to recognise detrimental sleep habits, says Pete Bils, Vice President of Sleep Science and Research at Sleep Number. If you’re having trouble sleeping, discovering why may be as easy as writing in your sleep diary.
Bils states, “by writing down thoughts, worries, and sleep quality (including dreams, length of sleep, how many times you are restless) it can help you recognize habits and patterns in your sleep that need work”. For instance, if you wake frequently in the night, it may be time to play around with your bedroom temperature, consider purchasing a new pillow, covers, or mattress.
Regardless of how you choose to journal, it’s important to recognise trends and trouble areas that, if fixed, could improve your sleep quality.
Just starting out?
The best way to start? Create a sleep journal. We've created our own Journal Kit here or any Journal you'd be happy to keep on your bedside.
If you're just getting started, here's a few ideas to start with:
- Tomorrow's to-do list, and your top three priorities
- Explore a dream
- Set your goals
- Three things you're grateful for
- A list of favourite books
- Something you've achieved this year
- Describe a challenge you've faced
- A memorable dream