Reflective Journal Writing

Reflective journal writing helps me sleep.

As someone that has historically struggled to reach a deep and relaxing sleep, I have often wondered what steps I could take to assist me not only stay asleep all night but help with the initial steps of falling to sleep.

(you were subject to horror movies as a child. No wonder you can’t sleep)

I am not someone who wants to reach for medication to help with this process, albeit I have tried numerous natural products with varying success. Some were quite helpful. There are many wonderfully helpful ‘sleepologists’ sharing a myriad of information which would all be helpful to some degree and I could write an essay on all the different pathways I have walked down before discovering my personal ‘yellow brick road’ to a successful night’s sleep.

(sleepologist?! Did you just come up with that? lol)

Personal journal picture
Personal evidence for why reflective journal writing works for me.

Now at 46 years old, I have had plenty of time to reflect on my life and have delved deeply into periods of time when my sleep patterns were much more positive and healthier. One point in history that was glaringly apparent of deep and restful slumber was during my early 20’s.

(your 20’s was a period where there wasn’t as much stress or responsibilities. A fun era full of experiments, exploration of self and the world around us, and an unmistakeable period of freedom to be whatever you wanted. I’m amazed you can remember it!)

During that period, I habitually chose to write, apart from other aspects that may have contributed to restfulness. I wrote about everything. Wherever I went, whoever I was with I consciously found time to dive into the pages and express myself with words. I kept a personal reflective journal, a dream journal and a journal dedicated to poetry and other miscellaneous mind-dives. Was there a connection between my 20’s, great sleep and journal writing?

(coincidence d#*khead)

Experimental evidence

As time progressed I lost touch with my choice to express my world with words and amongst other things I ceased to spend time utilising journal writing as a means of self-help. Personal evidence suggested that from the time I ceased writing up until reasonably recently I have had many periods of sleep deprivation and mild insomnia.

(ffs Steve, you had a child, got married. Your world was completely different from what it was. Your time was not entirely your own any longer. If I remember correctly you were a frightened little rabbit)

Managing healthy sleep patterns can be difficult, however, once I discovered the correct pattern that worked for me it became rather obvious when that pattern diverged off onto another direction. For me, the proof is having difficulty going to sleep and waking at ungodly hours with my mind racing at 100kms an hour. Not fun.

(take drugs and move on. Be a zombie when you wake up and struggle to function during the day. Do it. You know you want too)

Once I recognised that my sleep was being disturbed again, I spent considerable time reflecting on what in my life had changed that could undermine the strategies I implemented to assist with sleep. Sometimes it takes a lot of time to understand the alternate direction my life was taking and other times its obvious.

(you have too much free time on your hands. Who the hell has time to reflect deeply about their life and discover things about themselves?)

Once I recognised that I was no longer journal writing and that my sleep was suffering I decided to experiment on myself to ascertain whether a lack of journal writing may be partially responsible for poor sleep.
Simply put, once I began to write again, my capacity to sleep deeply increased. To test it, I stopped writing again, and you guessed it, I struggled to stay asleep. It seemed obvious to me and although my personal tests were only short in duration (a matter of weeks) it was clear how much journal writing helped me.

(you call that evidence?)

When and what I write

I try to start my journal first thing in the morning and I usually start by writing with the day, date and the time. I believe it is important to capture the time in case I require an investigation into moods or emotions for different times of the day and I can re-read my journal to discover potential patterns. Therefore, I found it extremely important to write down how I was feeling and my level of motivation. Mostly though I enjoy going over the dream I have had that night and writing it down in as much detail as time allows.

(oh dear. Here we go again. You and your dreams. You are a prolific dreamer Steve and I doubt anyone reading this has the time to dive into your epic dream world. Move on. I’m sure they all know how much information can be garnered from their dreams)

Ok… Not only do I intend to capture my dream I also like to quickly jot down some of the goals I have set for my day or some activities I would like to complete or begin. I found, writing even the simplest of tasks like ‘going for a walk’ can be beneficial if I complete that task and read about it later that day. Or not.

(wow. Pat yourself on the back. You. Went. For. A. Walk.)

Picture of pile of journals
Most importantly is the final journal entry of the day. I consciously allow myself time to unleash on the page just before I go to bed. No matter what sort of day I had, whether it was pleasant or a complete train wreck, it was vital for me to remove the thoughts of my day and transfer them to the pages. I found that this was a great way to trap these thoughts outside of myself by picturing the words leaving my mind and being cemented elsewhere.

This process helped me let go of the day, release any built-up emotion or tension and otherwise allow myself the freedom to go to bed without the weight of my reality sitting inside my head. I found that by documenting these thoughts I didn’t wake up as much during the night with the fear or emotions connected to the activities of the day being run repeatedly inside my brain. My journal held those feelings safely and tightly. No escape. I did not need to think about them again, that day or night.

(it’s a bloody book made of paper. Couldn’t hold a sneeze.)

Don’t take my word for it!

Although this is my personal belief of what helps me achieve a better night’s sleep, there are many reputable sources of information on this topic that could articulate this subject better than I can.

(you can say that again. Google ‘journaling for mental health’ for example)

As choice is important for every individual to exercise, I won’t tell you to investigate the benefits of journaling. Instead, I will only express the benefit it has for me.

(I have had enough of you Steve. I want to know what everyone else has to say.)

Disclaimer – This piece is not designed to be advice but rather the personal experience of the Author. This article is designed to elicit discussion, reflection, deep-diving and sharing potential information.

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