Why journaling is your secret weapon for getting more sleep
Could putting pen to paper be the key to drifting off each night?
With the word 'insomnia' being Googled more in 2020 than ever before, it’s fair to say that we would probably all like to get a few more Zzzs in the evening. And if the scenario of lying awake at night with your mind whirring through everything you need to get through the next day, from laundry to emails, is familiar, you'll be pleased to find there could be a simple fix.
Journaling has been found to have a whole host of wellbeing benefits, including the potential to help improve your sleep. Here, we look at the research and speak to an expert.
First things first: to get the most out of your sleep journal, you need to go old school. When it comes to jotting down your thoughts, embrace the concept of putting pen to paper to write down what’s on your mind. It might be more convenient to touchscreen your thoughts onto your phone, tablet or laptop, but the blue light emitted by your device can wreak havoc with your internal body clock, putting you one step behind before you’ve even got off the starting blocks.
Instead, treat yourself to a fancy notebook and pen to leave by your bed, or make things easy with a ready-made to-do list pad.
You’ve put away your tech and you’re ready to get started. But what should you actually write to help send you off to sleep?
Here’s the good news: you don’t need to sift through your innermost thoughts and feelings, or write pages of recollections from your day (unless you want to, of course). Instead, research suggests that keeping it simple is key: the straightforward act of writing down your to-do list for the following day is enough to help you reach the land of Nod.
A recent study found that people who spent five minutes writing down their to-do list for the next day fell asleep an average of nine minutes faster than those who wrote about what had happened during the day. So try looking forward, rather than back, and see if that helps you fall asleep.
If you want to really minimise the window of time it takes for you drift off, there's another tip you can try: make each point on your to-do list as precise as possible. In the same study, those who wrote more specific lists were found to fall asleep slightly faster on average, compared to those whose lists were more general.
As an added bonus, writing an exhaustive list of household chores you need to do the next day might just be so boring that you find yourself nodding off very easily indeed…
Keep it up
The magic of journaling doesn’t end there; putting pen to paper has been found to have numerous benefits for our wellbeing. We can ‘move’ anxious thoughts from our minds to our journals by writing them out, helping to lighten the load in our heads. It’s not just about lowering our stress levels: researchers have even suggested that the act of journaling could help reduce blood pressure and improve our immune systems.
The concept of bulletpoint journals is also increasingly popular, with notebooks specifically designed for planning activities or tasks offering a flexible way to get things out of your head and onto paper. There’s even a dedicated bullet journal website to help you on your journey to journaling success.