Pen to Paper for Better Sleep

If you're like many people, you climb into bed at night with a brain that's still buzzing from all the worries of the day. Instead of relaxing and letting go, you stress over work projects that aren't finished, realize that you still haven't bought peanut butter for the kids' lunches, and wonder exactly what that weird noise is that your car is making.

You lie awake thinking about all the things you have to tackle while the clock ticks on and on. Can you spell "insomnia"?

You don't need to draft a novel or a memoir—you simply need to write down your current thoughts. By putting them in the form of a journal or a to-do list, you're effectively clearing out your brain and allowing it to shut down and give you that much-desired sleep.

There's no one right way to write down your sleep-impeding thoughts. For some, keeping a formal diary or journal is key. You might pen elaborate entries full of descriptive detail and plans that help you make sense of your thoughts. Or you might make do with brief, scrawled words and phrases that remind you of things you've got to be on top of in the coming day. You may also find that a structured to-do list on which items are crossed off one by one can help clear your mind and allow you to sleep.

When should you write in your journal or make your to-do list? Trial and error will help you figure out what's best for you. You might consider writing early in the evening, which gives you a buffer zone before bedtime. This way you aren't planning and turning things over in your mind just before trying to sleep. Or you may find that getting everything out on paper right before lying down helps you drop off quickly. If you happen to wake up in the middle of the night with a pressing thought, you can reach for your paper and get that thought out, then go back to sleep.


Rush University Medical Center. "Sleep Tips."