The act of putting pen to paper has a magical quality about it for many people. But watching strokes appear as you delve into your own thoughts has more benefits than you might think. Stress and anxiety prevent many people from falling asleep. The trouble with sleep loss is that it comes back to affect other aspects of your life. However, writing in a journal has been shown to help alleviate some of the issues that may get in the way. With as little as five minutes of journal writing, you can help your mind and body rest at ease.
The Short List on Sleep Deprivation
We all need a full seven to nine hours of sleep. Of course, there are those who need a little more or less, but on average, anytime you get less than seven hours of sleep, you start to feel the effects of sleep deprivation. Sleep loss impacts both your mental and physical health. Without sleep, portions of the brain function differently. The area of the brain that processes emotions becomes more sensitive to negative thoughts and feelings when you’re tired. At the same time, your brain’s logic and higher reasoning center exerts less control over your emotions. If you’re already feeling stress and anxiety, sleep loss only compounds the problem.
Sometimes the solution to better sleep can be simple, like making sure you have a comfortable sleep environment. Too much light or a lumpy mattress could be keeping you awake. Luckily, blackout curtains and even mattresses can be ordered online, but sometimes sleep issues lie deeper. That’s where journal writing can help.
Write It Down for Better Sleep
Stress and anxiety can come from a number of life events. Addressing the issues that keep running through your mind can be a way to help yourself fall asleep. A study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology explored the benefits of writing down a to-do list in a journal before going to bed. The 57 participants took five minutes before getting in bed to either make a to-do list for the next day or list the tasks they’d completed in the previous few days. The nightly to-do list helped participants fall asleep nine to ten minutes faster. That may not seem like a significant amount of time, but it’s enough to reduce stress and anxiety for more restful sleep.
Sometimes you might need more than a to-do list. Divorce, the death of a loved one, or a change in financial circumstances can all be issues that make sleep elusive. More expressive or narrative writing has also been shown to help ease stress and anxiety. Writing about the event, creating a meaningful story that expresses your feelings and thoughts surrounding the event, can help prevent them from forming a mental loop that keeps you awake. A study conducted at the University of Arizona found that writing down an organized narrative around a traumatic event can reduce heart rate. When it comes to sleep, bringing your heart rate down is part of feeling calm and relaxed, which is exactly what you need before bed.
Processing thoughts and emotions isn’t always easy. The act of writing forces you to think, organize, and express the emotions that might be preventing you from getting the sleep you need. It might be worth taking five minutes to write down a to-do list or record the end of your daily story.
Guest Author Bio: Samantha Kent is a researcher for SleepHelp.org. Her favorite writing topic is how getting enough sleep can improve your life. Currently residing in Boise, Idaho, she sleeps in a California King bed, often with a cat on her face.