Sleep journaling may help you get more shut-eye – these are the benefits

Suffer with ‘middle of the night’ anxiety? 

Or perhaps you struggle to get off with so many thoughts whirling around your head every night?

It could be time to try sleep journaling – the process of tracking emotions, thoughts, tasks and reflections in the hours before going to bed.

While it might sound similar to keeping a sleep diary, it’s actually more about concluding your thoughts and feelings on the day.

And it could help improve your quality of sleep overall.

Ben Treanor, a wellness coach and founder of Mål Paper, says: ‘In the hours before going to bed, using a journal can be beneficial to your mental health and wellbeing, allowing you to process your thoughts from the day – preventing you from overthinking and reflecting when you are trying to go to sleep. 

‘Often when we struggle to sleep, it’s due to overthinking about upcoming tasks or any potential issues.

‘Delaying your sleep in this way can result in a lack of rest for your mind and body, causing you to feel tired and lethargic the next day.’

Ben stresses that what you write in a sleep journal will be personal and specific to you – as it will revolve around your experiences. 

And not only can sleep journaling improve sleep but it can also have a positive impact on wellness, mental health, productivity, and happiness. 

Below are a few of the benefits – and how it could help you get more shut-eye…

It relieves worries

Putting the events of the day out of our brains is easier said than done.

Simply put, switching off can be difficult – especially if we are worried or anxious about certain things.

This is where sleep journaling comes into play.

Ben says: ‘One of the benefits of journaling on sleep is that a journal is the perfect space to vent about your worries. It’s a space completely private to you, and you can use it to express whatever you want.’

Boosts mental wellbeing

‘There is a clear link between poor mental health and lack of sleep. These two issues can form a Catch-22 situation. You can’t sleep because of your bad mental health, but you can’t become better mentally without a proper night of sleep,’ explains Ben.

‘One of the benefits of journaling on sleep is that it can boost your mental health, helping you relax into sleep.

‘Freewriting can help you let out your feelings and explore your creativity. This can help you come to terms with your worries and build self-esteem.’

Sleep journaling can therefore help you break out of a downward thought spiral you might find yourself in at bedtime.

Can be used to analyse sleep patterns

Ben adds that you can also use a sleep journal to look into your sleep patterns and behaviors.

You can do this by asking certain questions before you go to sleep and when you wake up.

Before you sleep, Ben suggests you write the answers to these questions:

  • What did you eat for dinner?
  • How long ago was the meal?
  • What did you do today? (Only a rough summary of major events required)
  • When did you get into bed?
  • When will you go to sleep? 
  • Were any fears or concerns on your mind?

After you get up the next morning, you should immediately write answers to these questions:

  • How long did you sleep for?
  • Did you wake up in the night and how long for?
  • Was your sleep restful?
  • How refreshed do you feel upon waking up?

He adds: ‘These details can help you to spot patterns in the way you sleep. Are certain details appearing repeatedly on nights you couldn’t sleep?

‘Be sure to write as soon as you wake up to ensure your responses are as accurate as possible. ‘

Helps you plan for the day ahead

Our ‘always on’ culture means daily life can sometimes feel exhausting and overwhelming – and this fast pace can affect our sleep.

‘We toss and turn, unable to brush off thoughts of tomorrow’s tasks. ‘”Will I get the work done in time?” “What needs to be done after that?”’ adds Ben.

‘One of the benefits of journaling on sleep is that journaling can soothe your worries about future tasks.’

Ben suggests writing down a to-do list of jobs for the next day before you go to sleep – and you might find this helps take a weight off your mind. 

He adds: ‘One reason this works is because you know you won’t forget the tasks, since you’ve written them down.

‘Another reason is that, by writing your tasks down, you have let them go. They are no longer trapped inside of you, but written on a piece of paper on your bedside table.’

Gives you a digital detox

Screen time can wreak havoc on our physical health in so many ways – particularly our sleep.

So sleep journaling is an alternative activity to mindless scrolling before bed.

Ben says: ‘Journaling is a relaxing, mindful activity that doesn’t involve a screen.

‘Choose a journal to write in (don’t be tempted to write on a digital device), and let your imagination flow before sleep.

‘So, next time you’re struggling to sleep, put that smartphone away, get out a journal and write.

‘Whether you decide to free-write your ideas or jot down a to-do list for tomorrow, the benefits of journaling for sleep will make adding those five or ten minutes to your bedtime routine well worth it.’

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