A woman journaling in bed.

Writing down your day’s thoughts can help you sleep better at night. Even recent research agrees. Think about it: how many times have you walked through a book store and noticed a collection of sleep journals? Or, at the least, journals with moons and stars etched on their covers, hinting that they’re tools there to promote sleepiness?

But how many of us have really tried keeping a sleep journal? The truth is, if we find ourselves struggling to get quality sleep, we’ll usually resort to all measures in order to find rest. And keeping a sleep journal isn’t all that difficult. It can actually be rather enjoyable if you stick to writing each night and follow a schedule before you turn the lights out. Here are a few practices to keep in mind when you decide to write in a sleep journal before bed:

Step 1: Track Your To-Do List

The majority of nighttime wakefulness and anxiety can be the result of fearing we’ll forget tomorrow’s responsibilities. Guess what can combat this issue? A handy sleep journal. To start, write down important things you have to do the next day or reminders of appointments, meetings and events in your schedule you can’t afford to forget. This way, you won’t have to waste energy worrying about all the things you have to do the next day.

For people with sleep disorders or chronic sleep problems, tracking your sleep patterns (i.e. number of hours of sleep per night, times went to bed and diet) can be a helpful addition to this step. This method of record-keeping can even promote further healthy sleep habits, like sticking to a regular sleep schedule.

Step 2: Feel It Out

A lot of what can keep us up at night is a jumbled array of emotions we felt throughout our day. If we’ve had a difficult day, sometimes our feelings can prevent us from getting the sleep we need because we’ll spend our time worrying. This is where pen and paper come in handy.

Once you’ve written out your to-do list for the next day, you can set aside some time to put your feelings to paper. Take an entire page to write down how you feel in the present moment. This can include single words or long phrases. The key is to not overthink the exercise, but rather, make it quick and don’t hold yourself back. This way, you have a space to write out your thoughts and then organize them.

Step 3: Minimize Distractions

If you’ve decided to commit to keeping a sleep journal, you should probably also commit to limiting your exposure to your phone, the TV, your laptop and/or your tablet before bed. Even though recent research shows that blue light might not have as negative of an effect on our sleep as we may have previously believed, it’s still a good idea to limit our screen time before bed.

Quick tip: Think of your sleep journal as a replacement to checking your phone before you drift off into slumber.

At the end of the day, keeping a sleep journal is what you make of it. Journaling before bed doesn’t have to equate to writing a lengthy essay about your day, unless of course, that’s what you want it to become. Instead, use nighttime journaling as a safe space for logging your thoughts. It should provide you an outlet for jotting down things you’ve held in or important events you’d like to remember. The end goal is to get better sleep, so use your journal as you see fit.