The one habit that will help you sleep better

·4-min read
The one habit that will help you sleep better
Photograph: Matheus Vinicius/Unsplash

It doesn't take too much of your time and you'll sleep like a baby.

You’ve probably read considerable number of articles on sleep hygiene. Needless to say, much has been written about sleeping and much research has gone into the one activity that’s supposed to come naturally to us. And yet, here we are: losing sleep is one of the many the flipsides of modernity. To add to it, we find ourselves in the midst of a global pandemic and a national lockdown. With literally nowhere to go and nothing to do besides watching Netflix, working away into the night and cooking/cleaning, our lives have changed in a way no one predicted. All of this is bound to lead to anxiety – one of the biggest triggers of sleeplessness.

It is likely that you may have tried everything we’ve recommended previously – from putting away your phone to creating a relaxing environment in the bedroom and much more – but discovered that sleep still evades you. And you wouldn’t be alone. It doesn’t mean that the advice is useless. There are several who find it possible to fall asleep when they use meditation apps, sleep music and burn essential oils. Being able to unwind and relax is the first step to good sleep.

The research being TV, laptop and mobile screens is solid too; these screens emit a light that reduces melatonin production. Melatonin is the hormone that helps you sleep better. But having a screen before you, does something else too. Ut doesn’t matter if you’re watching a light rom-com, watching a cat video or working on your presentation – the flashing images on your screen increase your anxiety levels a few notches. And calming your anxious mind is the key to sleeping well.

Unfortunately, anxiety is at the very heart of our existence at this moment. With no end of the pandemic in sight, with businesses shutting down and uncertainty looming in the air, it is impossible to not feel anxious, isn’t it?

While you cannot prevent anxiety, you certainly can address it. And that is where this little trick comes handy.

Tonight, instead of firing up your laptop and logging on to yet another binge-watch session, try doing this: write down everything that’s playing on your mind. Use a pen and a notepad, old-school style and not a computer or a mobile phone. There is something deeply personal, almost primordial, about putting pen to paper. Our ancestors out a rock to the cave walls. Closer to our lives, when we wrote our exams growing up, we wrote them and didn’t hammer away at keyboards; we passed written notes to our crushes in class and didn’t just text them an emoji. Writing was and remains a deeply personal way of communicating, with others as well as ourselves. It’s also at the reason why it’s central to kakeibo, the century-old art of saving money. According to Fumiko Chiba who’s translated the kakeibo philosophy from Japanese to English, writing down how much you spend instead of punching in numbers on a phone app gives you the space and time to reflect on your spending. The same logic applies to addressing your anxiety too.

When you write down everything that’s bothering you – whether it’s the kids, their future, your own financial condition, the office gossip against you, the fight you had with your spouse – it helps you get it out of your system. Do not judge yourself as you write – it could seem silly to you when you give it some thought but that’s the point. The idea is to not think but just write; they needn’t even be fully-formed sentences but just phrases and words that capture the essence of the thoughts that are playing on your mind.

The moment you put them all out on a piece of paper, you will most likely feel a weight being lifted off your chest. Once that happens, sleep is bound to follow. Make writing out your anxiety a habit. Do it every day; it doesn’t matter if you end up repeating yourself. It is perfectly normal for you to be anxious about the same thing day after day. The important thing to remember is to flush it out of your system. Writing it out goes a long way.

Of course, making your bedroom look like an inviting hotel room does also help!