a pencil erasing writing from in a brain and another pencil writing stuff down in a journal

Can Journaling Help Improve Sleep?

I've had an on-again, off-again relationship with journaling all my life. It all started in elementary school when my mom bought me a diary with a lock and key. Oh, how I treasured that thing. Until some of my friends got into it and read my innermost thoughts. That turned me off journaling for a long time – the fear of someone else reading my hopes, dreams, and fears.

Since then, over the years, I discovered something else about journaling, although I didn't consider it journaling at the time. When I wrote something down, like on a shopping list, I discovered that I remembered everything I wrote.

The mere act of writing it down somehow imprinted it on my memory. That was a good thing, too, because I forgot the list at home more often than not.

Rediscovering journaling

More recently, as I got into health coaching, I began to hear more and more about journaling again. I dismissed the idea, though, thinking it was silliness. I guess I was still stuck on the childhood fear of putting my innermost thoughts down on paper only to have others read it and laugh at me.

Needless to say, I'm once again in love with journaling. The main reason is that it helps me to sleep.

I have trouble turning off my mind at night

I'm a worrier and a deep thinker. I tend to replay encounters in my head, and it gets worse at the end of the day. As I slow down and prepare for bed, that's when the unwelcome thoughts come crowding in. An unwelcome blend of things I should have said, things I need to remember to do, grocery items I need, you name it.

It all comes flooding in and I find myself tossing and turning, even with my CPAP. My eyes are heavy with sleep, but my mind keeps churning and just won't turn off. That's where writing it all down in a journal helps.

Journaling helps me clear my thoughts

For some reason, getting things down on paper has the amazing effect of getting it out of my head and allowing me to sleep. For example, my job has been getting very stressful, and working from home doesn't help. I used to have a 20-minute commute that I thought helped me to unwind and clear my thoughts. Now I just turn off the computer and join my family. There is no unwind time and that was affecting my mental health.

My end-of-day brain dump

So I decided to take the last few minutes of my workday and do a brain dump. I write down the tasks I have to do the next day and things that happened during the day that stressed me out or upset me. That way, when I go downstairs, I'm physically and mentally present with my family. Even better, when it's bedtime, the thoughts don't come rushing back.

I have to admit, though, some days, I'm working up until the last minute and don't take the time to journal. That's when I really feel it. Not only am I distracted for the rest of the evening, but drifting off to sleep is so hard. That's why I keep a small notebook by my bedside. It makes it easy to jot down a few thoughts to get them out of my head before bed.

In conclusion, I've tried warm baths and meditations before bed, but nothing works to turn my mind off like journaling does. Have you tried journaling?

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