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Last Updated May 18, 2023
When your head hits the pillow at night, sleep might not come naturally. It is because your head might be heavy (metaphorically speaking) with today’s work and tomorrow’s unfinished tasks hanging over your mind like a ticking pendulum clock.
The first and foremost thing you need to do to sleep better is to put your mind’s chatter at rest. It is difficult but doable. And journaling before sleep can help you with that.
In this blog, we will explore how tracking your emotions and penning down your thoughts can help you give much-needed sleep along with mental peace and the overall satisfying feeling of well-being.
Yes. But only if you do it the right way.
You see, your mind is a curious thing. It never shuts up when you tell it to. Especially in the silence of the night, it is all the more powerful with the solitude you offer it.
Our minds or brains are very skillful at bringing out negative thoughts or unpleasant feelings you might have suppressed all day. It is also called ‘Conditioned Arousal’ which happens due to a certain stress factor in your everyday. This stress factor could be anything - from your financial woes to relationship problems, to things not going well in your new job or you getting frustrated over not finding enough time for taking a break.
A journal can be a perfect place to pour your heart out. Do not think and restrict yourself and just write whatever is bothering you. Make sure that you are doing it on pen and paper instead of looking and typing into the soul-sucking blue light of an electronic device. It is important because when you write without distractions and interruptions, you are able to write freely. When all that has disturbed you is being noted down on the paper, you are letting it go.
If you journal that way, it can help you sleep. Writing in your sleep journal is different from logging your sleep schedule or putting your opinions of the day in your daily diary. When you sleep journal, you are trying to reach the root cause that’s causing insomnia.
The whole idea of penning it down is to spot patterns in your thoughts that are pushing you down the lane of overthinking and preventing you from a good night’s sleep. Therefore, journaling before sleep is the way.
By the nighttime, you are alone with your thoughts. There’s no meeting to attend, no one’s calling, and most of your day’s work is wrapped up (we will talk about unfinished businesses later). From here, it can go both ways. Either you feel satisfied or you complain. In both scenarios, a journal comes handy.
To some extent, yes. But again, it is you who have to take the decisive steps. Overthinking, as the name suggests, is too many thoughts fighting it out in your head. And you can’t sleep and rest when your mind is like a warzone. Way out?
Allow your thoughts and ideas to emerge on your notepad or diary. Let them revolve around your experience. Write about everything - your negative reactions to someone’s comment, a positive incident that boosted your morale for a while. Write about that dream vacation you want to take or simply write what you feel passionate or sad about.
In many studies, it has come out that stream of consciousness or free-mind writing helps our brains relax so much that it can change our neural pathways.
And last but not the least, overthinking is sitting idle and worrying. When you write in a journal, it is similar to taking action. When you are in active mode, it boosts your mental well-being and prepares you to face another day while making you grateful for all the positive things you receive. That’s a start.
Your brain is constantly thinking even as you read this. Most of the time our brains want to be at rest. Anything new or sudden or uncertain triggers an anxious response without us knowing. If you ever felt nervous, had an urge to breathe rapidly, or had a sense of impending doom then you might have had one of those anxiety attacks.
While stress is a natural response to a perceived threat (however stress, too can be manufactured with fake scenarios) but it is still in our minds. Anxiety or anxious thoughts, on the other hand, can interfere with our system since it is our body’s reaction to stress. How does journaling help? Let’s find out.
Many studies have shown that writing for at least 15 minutes 3 days a week can reduce anxiety levels in people. Not only sleep journaling can help you find out anxiety-inducing triggers but it also makes you aware of your unhealthy thinking patterns. So yes, it does help in many ways to overcome several mental health issues.
When we are in our heads, we can be anything. But when we process our thoughts and write them down then only we can plan our way to solve our mental issues. In research, it has come out that emotion-focused expressive writing can reduce feelings of distress. Recalling a traumatic or emotional event and doing an honest assessment is better than keeping them inside your mind.
Only when your mind gets rid of negative emotions and feels greater happiness then it can be at peace. Sleeping is nothing but being content with yourself. You can find your inner peace by looking inside your emotions.
Before we delve into how journaling reduces tension, we need to know if you are stressed out. Most of the time people don’t even know that they are living under stressful conditions. Let’s see - do you feel constant fatigue or tension in your back or shoulders or even jaws? How often do you wake with heart palpitation and happen to have episodes of panic attacks? Does your mood change often? Do you feel angry or on the verge of crying most of the time? If your answer is yes to any of these questions, then you might be under pressure.
Journaling helps you give a fire escape when things are not going fine. Emotional release of your negative emotions from your mind is as important as detoxifying your body. In many cases, journaling one’s thoughts have improved cognitive functions and even improved immunity and bodily functions like better breathing and better blood pressure.
When you track and notice your negative thoughts and empower your positive emotions, it does wonder to your body and your mind. In fact, all-or-nothing thinking exaggerates your depressive episodes. You need to take care of your mood swings. That can happen only when you know when your moods swing. Journaling helps here.
And when your bodily functions are in sync with your moods, it shows especially when you lie down. If you have good thoughts then sleeping or the onset of it shouldn’t be as difficult as it used to be earlier. But can the same technique help with depression? We will find out next.
If anxiety is living in the future, then depression is about never leaving the past.
While a lingering sadness and loss of interest in worldly things might sound poetic and philosophical, this is not how you can live your life.
Be it your active years or golden ones, depression can affect you at any age, in any condition. Severe depression can be a medical condition. But definitely not every sad mood should be termed depression. Rather you need to watch it. And only when it continues to be a part of your personality for a considerable then you might term it a persistent depressive disorder.
But it is always better to reach out to a therapist for an effective treatment instead of self-examining your mental health conditions. Although it is difficult to peek into someone's mind, you can still watch out for physical symptoms. Include a purpose like working on things that make you happy or give you perspective. Addressing your underlying emotions can help you understand your moods.
Almost 8% of Americans feel the fangs of depression down their neck, sucking their vitality and will to live. Mental health is one of the biggest health concerns in the United States.
While journaling can not be a cure-for-all, it can make you more aware of your emotions. It makes you more mindful of the world’s way and makes emotions manageable. Just don’t be too critical of yourselves. We all fail. We all commit mistakes. This should not rob you of your most essential thing in life - your rest and your sleep time.
But what if you are not sad or depressed and rather angry over the way things turn up? Well, anger can be a mood-killer for sure. Let’s see what we can do about it.
When you take things personally, see the world in black and white (all or nothing thinking), and idealize your situation (for example - 'The world should be fair and just to you'), you are setting the ground for anger.
Anger can also be a mix of perfection-seeking, pessimistic and cynical tendencies often leading to defeatist conclusions (for example - 'I am going to lose it, this is not looking good', etc.)
The problem with anger or allied emotions is people can’t see it themselves. There’s always someone to blame. And sparks can fly when you are the center of the world and good things are moving in a different direction instead of coming to you.
But there shouldn’t be any harm in accepting that anger can be a normal reaction to certain triggers (you’re late for the office and swearing while stuck in the traffic ). Talk therapy also helps. But you see the constructive side of your anger if you commit to writing. Journaling before sleep is like problem-solving that brings a more balanced perspective to your daily life.
When you journal your negative thoughts, you tend to recall events that triggered the feeling of frustration and anger within you. When you look back at your emotional response and your behavioral patterns and even your body language, you know where all of it started. You can note all of it in your journal.
In your next visit to your therapist or simply when you revisit your writing alone, you will find a way. The lesser your emotional outbursts would be, the better would be your sleep. Even when you don't see it, ask a close family member and you will know.
Expressively writing about incidents, traumas, and happy moments helps you grow. Not just metaphorically, but also in terms of working memory capacity.
Latest research shows that regular journaling of your thoughts can boost your memory and comprehension. The more you write, the better your cognitive processing will be.
In many cases, it has helped people cope with their anxious thoughts, episodes of depression, mental disorders, and post-traumatic stress disorders. You feel restless, you grab a pen and paper. Every word that comes out of your mind reflects parts of your certain personality traits and is really helpful to let you grow as a person.
As writing reduces your inner conflicts and regulates your emotions, it also helps your brain relax and respond to triggers and helps you fall asleep. In a way, you are training your brain and equipping it with a better guide system to sail through turbulent times.
If you do it regularly, it can be as effective as Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy. Not to mention that you sleep better as your mind feels light and unburdened with all the thoughts poured over your notebook.
Many studies have shown improved immunity and bodily functions after people resorted to consistent writing for their sleep journals. Even older adults, especially patients who experience depression and anxiety disorders, have reported the feeling of calm and being at peace after giving their thoughts an outlet.
The whole point of a sleep journal is to create a conducive mindset for your sleep and rest time. Also, nighttime is the time that you truly own. Free from notifications and distractions, no obligation to respond to emails (that can wait till morning), and an uninterrupted stretch of time. You do not feel restless. Your behavior is at its best.
Journaling at night is also good because it uproots most of your unresolved thoughts from your mind when you pen them down on paper. Since your memories of the day are still fresh, you can still recall the good and bad parts of your day with clarity.
It also helps that night is considered the end of the day and jobs associated with it (Unless you are a night worker, in that case, you write before you go to sleep). Before there’s another day and sunshine, calls, and work; there’s night - only for you.
All you have to do is stay away from your electronic devices. Grab a pen and paper and start writing.
You just have to be honest with yourself. But remember don’t become a critic and a judge of your own life. Let your words flow. Do not think about any patterns yet. Just write. You can choose to edit or throw it away but first, let your unhinged thoughts come out.
Start with something simple. Get into comfortable clothes. Keep a fixed time in your schedule. Accept your thoughts and whatever you did and let it go. Remember life is bigger than all these little problems. Breathe. Let your body feel peace and calm.
You are now ready for your bedtime. Keep repeating and don't miss twice in a row. You will feel the difference in your thoughts, your actions, and in your sleeping habits after being regular at your sleep journal.
You can also go through these blogs for more tips on improving your sleep routine and habits.
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Also, do tell us in the comment section what you think about this article. Do you also keep a sleep journal? If yes then how has the habit of penning down your thoughts at night helped with your sleep and in your life in general?
Disclaimer: What is said in this article has been referenced from multiple sources and is intended only for educational and informational purposes. Please note that no content in this article is a substitute for professional advice from a qualified doctor or healthcare provider. Always consult an experienced doctor with any concerns you may have regarding a health condition or treatment, and never disregard any medical suggestions or delay in seeking treatment because of something you read here.