The Little Book That Can Boost Your Sleep

Laura Brigance, MS, CHC

Sleep in this day and age has declined so terribly that it's now being called an epidemic. Mega stress at work and home, little to no vacation days, and now COVID have all contributed an ever-worsening condition that is throwing our health into a dangerous limbo.

It's no wonder so many Americans are scrambling to find the best way to actually get to sleep and stay asleep. And small kids aside, it shouldn't be like chasing a mythical unicorn.

Anxiety and depression, both caused by chronic stress, are one of the top four reasons for people to have a lack of sleep.

Studies have shown depression and anxiety have a major link to a person's sense of control. And given the already large bouts of stress on top of the last year of quarantine and lockdowns, it's no wonder that lack of sense of control is, well... out of control.

One very effective method for steering peoples' minds to a more peaceful place so they can sleep lies in a little book that really has no magical powers at all. In fact, the pages are blank.

{Photo credit: Prophsee Journals,}

That little book is a journal.

Journaling has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety before bed, thereby allowing us to fall asleep easier. But there are a few tricks to regain a sense of control and make it effective.

1. Journal to work through your feelings

As previously stated, that lack of control can come from any given situation that's causing major stress. But also the feeling that you can do nothing to change the situation. Sometimes it all comes down to one of two things: working through the feelings to simply reframe the situation, or working through the situation to find a viable solution. Either can be accomplished by doing a brain-dump of your feelings to really get out all that anxiety onto paper.

2. Journaling a to-do list

Although initial studies showed journaling before bed, in general, alleviated stress to allow participants to sleep, another study showed that a more targeted approach was needed to get relief. In particular, journaling about completed activities showed no benefit to sleep, whereas journaling a to-do list helped participants clear their mind of things that needed to get done.

Feelings of lack of control often come from a fear of forgetting things, so it makes sense that simply creating a list of things to do so that you don't feel responsible for holding them in your up-front memory bank can help alleviate that heavy feeling.

3. Be consistent

Journaling isn't really a one-and-done type of thing. Those that experience chronic stress and anxiety have a tendency to get triggered easily and, by habit programming, fall right back into a stressed state. By journaling consistently, the brain knows there will a decompression period, even if they're not able to control getting into that stressed state yet.

4. Use a sequence

For some, being wound up can take a bit to come down from at the end of the day. Which is why many people self-medicate, mistakenly thinking it will help them get to sleep. A recommended sequence to try is to start with a to-do list for the next day or week. Being technical from the start can release those things from the mind to make room for the emotional part.

Next, journal about all the things that are causing an emotional burden. Work through those things, then move on to gratitude. Gratitude journaling has been shown to be very beneficial in terms of feelings of well-being.

Last, move on to things that make you laugh or feel love. Ending the process with this exercise that recalls feelings of joy, love, or amusement can be the icing on the cake that allows a true relaxation to set in via 'feel-good' chemicals. Thus, this specific sequence moves us from our stress state into a relaxed state to be able to drift off easier.

Regardless of your heavy levels of stress, taking advantage of the little blank book can certainly help get some feelings of control over situations, as well as allow a brain-dump to release those things causing stress to finally allow more peaceful and sweet dreams.

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My mission is to always find the magic middle where healthy + efficient merge. As a nutrition specialist and certified health coach with a master of science in nutrition, I firmly believe in nourishing the body, mind, and spirit with proper food, rest, movement, and stress management. My mission is to teach people how those CORE 4 things work together, how to do them on the daily, then put them on autopilot.

Montgomery, TX

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