Journaling for Insomnia

I have always been..."wordy." My parents used to joke that I started talking at 9 months old and never, ever stopped. And I always relate that back to my huge levels of curiosity and passion about life and the world around me.

It’s no surprise then, that my brain tends to feel like it’s always on the go - whether I’m wide awake or trying to sleep, working or driving or having a conversation or making dinner or even vegging out.

My constant thoughts have undoubtedly contributed to and/or challenged my insomnia - and it’s been really important to me over the years to identify things that can help support this.

Journaling throughout my life

Journaling has become an incredible tool for several facets of my life, including my insomnia.

Regular journaling - writing with a pen in a notebook or typing away at the keys on my laptop - has enabled me to brain dump and then release, in a way. It gives me permission and structure to put down everything circling in my mind, and then take a long, deep, releasing breath.

When I journal, or brain dump, I don’t feel like I have to continue holding so many pieces all the time, and my brain can then slow down, and focus on one thing at a time. It also enables me to prioritize thoughts and constant to-do lists, think about what really needs to get done and what is optional, and identify any feelings of mine that are getting in the way.

Writing before bed

My strategy with journaling for insomnia is two-fold:

First, I do a thorough writing session before I get into bed. Sometimes this is with dinner or right after putting my toddler to bed, but most often it has the best success if I do it after brushing my teeth right before turning out the light.

I write about whatever is on my mind. When my thoughts are more feelings-based, I’ll sometimes close my eyes at my computer and type without looking at the screen. It’s something that gives me a bit of distance between my feelings and the associated emotions. Other times if it’s more task or list-based, I’ll use grid paper or a notebook that I keep on my nightstand to ensure nothing gets forgotten.

A release for my brain

When I lay down to sleep, I try to use positive affirmations to remind myself that my brain can shut off because I’ve just written down everything I was thinking. I won’t forget anything and nothing will happen before morning that will need to get added to my list.

Sometimes, this is incredibly successful.

Periodically I find myself reaching for that same notepad during the night, when I turn over or get up to use the restroom and find my brain thinking about things again. But, knowing that I have that space and that plan/routine has been really helpful in supporting better sleep efforts.

Writing in the morning

The second part, for me, is a follow-up morning writing session. This is usually the first thing I do when I sit down at my desk with my coffee. I look at any current task lists or the things I wrote before bed the previous night, organize my day, and add anything else that has come up.

Sometimes, I use this space to write about how I slept, or my irritability or morning dread. I’ve found that validating my own feelings and seeing them written on paper is really helpful for my remembering that insomnia is a medical condition I struggle with. I’ve found this routine to be a bit of self-care combined with support for my insomnia.

If you’ve tried something similar, I’d love to hear how it went for you!

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