Sleep Better with a Worry Journal
If you hit the pillow concerned about all the things you need to do tomorrow, or other anxious thoughts running through your head, you’re likely to find sleep elusive.
“Anxiety puts cortisol in your bloodstream,” says Steven Stosny, the author of “Soar Above: How to Use the Most Profound Part of Your Brain Under Any Part of Stress.” “Cortisol’s a stimulant, so it’s like having a Starbucks before you go to sleep.” You’re also more prone to toss and turn when worrying, Stosny says.
A worry journal can help. The journal is an emotional outlet where you can write freely about the anxieties plaguing your day so they don’t rear their heads at night. With a worry journal, your problems have a place to be other than in your mind, disturbing your sleep.
“It’s beneficial to write down anxious thoughts for several reasons,” Stosny says. “It slows down the cascade of thoughts – anxious thoughts tend to go very fast, and the faster they go, the less likely they are to be realistic.”
Just the act of acknowledging the thoughts you’re having can make them easier to process and provide some clarity on why they’re causing you sleepless nights. “We have to get things that are in our heads down on paper and work with them so we can figure them out,” says Jon Progoff, director at Dialogue House Associates, which runs the Intensive Journal® Program.
If you want to get the most out of your worry diary, follow these tips:
Write it out – literally.
Go the old-fashioned route with your journal and actually write in it, as opposed to keeping a digital diary. “Writing in longhand involves more motor skills than typing does and invokes more prefrontal cortex activity, which is the regulatory part of the brain,” Stosny says. If your handwriting skills are a little rusty, that’s okay. This isn’t a race. “Research shows that writing by hand is what works best in getting in touch with yourself,” Progoff says. “It’s not the quantity you write – I can write so much faster on a computer – it’s the quality of what you’re writing.”
Keep it from being just a venting session.
Your worry journal will be less effective if you dwell on all your negative thoughts than if you make a plan for them. “When you write down something you’re worried about, try to assign it a probability, how likely it is to happen,” Stosny says. “And then write what you will do to cope if it does happen. This turns worry into useful contingency planning.”
Don’t worry about the frequency.
Don’t turn your worry journal into something else to worry about. Write in it on an as-needed basis, and don’t set up too many rules you feel you need to follow. “There will be times in your life when there are a lot of issues swirling about, and other times when things are pretty quiet and you do it less frequently,” Progoff says.
Put a little time between writing and sleep.
If you journal immediately before bed, it may be a distraction as you try to drift off and instead keep remembering more you wanted to jot down. Instead, try writing about an hour before bed.
Recognize that you have the power.
You might be amazed how much insight you gain from seeing your thoughts in print. “Get them down on paper and work with them, and hopefully you’ll get some peace of mind, healing or a new perspective that wasn’t there before,” Progoff says. Once you release the mental burden of having to hang onto an idea so you don’t forget it, you’ll be one step closer to sweet dreams.
Check out these other ways to help you stress less and sleep more; because no one wants to stress more and sleep less, right?!
Like diet and exercise, quality sleep is essential for optimal health and performance. Because everyone’s sleep needs are different, Sleep Number® beds with SleepIQ® technology inside adjust to your ideal level of firmness, comfort and support. SleepIQ technology tracks how well you sleep each night, giving you personal insights into your sleep so you’ll learn how life affects your sleep and how sleep affects your life. Find your Sleep Number® setting for your best possible night’s sleep.