Doing This Earlier In The Day May Make Falling Asleep At Night Easier

Sleep can be difficult when you have a lot on your mind. You wake up, toss and turn, and begin ruminating over the previous day or worrying over the events of the next day. You know there's nothing you can do about your worries and anxieties while you're lying in bed, but that sense of powerlessness can keep you from getting the sleep you need. What's tough is that you can get stuck in a worry loop. Your worrying can cause you to lose sleep, and your lack of sleep kicks in your stress response, causing more anxiety and worry. 

You can try some wind-down rituals just before you go to bed, such as diaphragmatic breathing or progressive muscle relaxation. Exercising earlier in the day can also help relieve stress and help you fall asleep (per Sleep Foundation). 

Have you tried writing in a journal? Writing down some of your distressing thoughts and emotions can help put them to bed. However, sleep psychologists tell HuffPost that writing down your worries earlier in the day can help you put these worries aside well before bedtime.

Journaling earlier in the day helps you fall asleep later

When worries overcome you, it can be difficult to manage the overwhelming emotions. Writing in a journal engages the analytical part of your brain, according to MD Anderson Cancer Center. Rather than feeling the emotions, your prefrontal cortex is activated as you describe what you're feeling. Using your logical brain helps you get a better handle on why you're feeling the way that you do and what the situations are that trigger your emotions.

Writing in a journal gives you a proactive way to organize your thoughts so you can create actionable solutions to your problems. By settling your ruminating thoughts, you can look a little closer at any stressors or patterns that you fall into and shift negative thoughts into positive ones. You might also notice that writing down your thoughts gives you some insight into how you understand the world. You can even set goals and break them down into small steps to write about each day. This empowers you with the idea that you have control over your situations and problems, according to HealthMatch.

How to establish a journaling practice

Different writing practices can help you manage your bedtime worries, so try a few to see which works for you best. One method PsychCentral suggests is to set a timer and write whatever comes to your mind during that time, ignoring any need for proper spelling, punctuation, or editing. When the timer ends, go back and review. A second method is to set 20 minutes to specifically address your thoughts about a specific problem, then review your words to see if you arrive at a new perspective or insight.

Sometimes freewriting can feel intimidating, so using specific journal prompts might help ease anxiety or worry. Consider creating a list of affirmations and keep them close by when you begin to feel anxious. You might also answer questions like "What do I need to let go of?" or "What activities calm me?" Remember to journal a few hours before bed rather than right before bed to help you fall asleep faster.

If you don't have time to write down your worries in the late afternoon or early evening, there's still time just before bed. Rather than write down what you're worried about, take five minutes to write a to-do list of things that you hope to complete in the next few days. According to a 2018 article in the Journal of Experimental Psychology, people fell asleep faster when they journaled about their to-do list rather than writing about things they completed the past few days.