Brain Dump for a Good Night’s Sleep

Calm your mind for a more restful sleep

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Many people have unhealthy sleep habits. What you do before bed has been proven to impact the quality of sleep you have each night. If you are struggling with falling or staying asleep and are ready to change your habits, this activity may help you get a deep night’s rest. Brain dumping helps you clear your mind of worries, frustrations, and to-do lists to allow you to have a deeper, more restful night’s sleep.

This activity will help you:

  • Alleviate ruminating thoughts
  • Calm your nervous system through active journal prompts
  • Allow you to write down thoughts to come back to later or simply do away with. 

Many people struggle with an overactive mind before bed. When the mind is active, the nervous system is often in its sympathetic (or fight or flight) state. There is a truth to the statement that a calm mind leads to a calm nervous system. An overactive mind can make it harder to fall or stay asleep. 

We’ve put together a list of prompts that will help you:

  • Clear the clutter from your mind. 
  • Relax your nervous system. 
  • Change your before sleep habits. 

How to begin?

  • Find a quiet place. Your bed, a cozy chair, or your favorite spot in the living room can be great spots for this activity. 
  • Give yourself 20 minutes to do this activity. You can spend the entire time dumping your thoughts following the prompts, or sit quietly and breathe and enjoy the relaxation of a quieter mind once you have completed the activity. 
  • Set the mood: It can also help to set a relaxed mood by lighting a candle, diffusing your favorite essential oil, dimming the lights, or finding your favorite way to set the tone for this unwind your mind ritual. 

The Brain Dump Process:

Brain dump is defined by Merriam-Webster as, “the act or an instance of comprehensively and uncritically expressing and recording one's thoughts and ideas.” In other words, it is a form of stream of consciousness self expression. When you allow yourself to put your thoughts on paper without judgement, you begin a simple, effortless process of cleansing and clearing your conscious mind of clutter. Think of this as a Marie Kondo for the mind exercise. What’s left at the end of this should be a sense of peace, and maybe even joy. 

How to begin:

  • Just start writing. Don’t think. Just dump. Set a timer for 20 min and go! 
  • If you want more structured prompts, here are a few:
  • What is worrying me right now? List worries. List thoughts connected to worries. If you like making lists out of your worries, draw a line down the middle of your paper. On one side write: Best case scenario. On the other: Worst case scenario for each of your worries. 
  • What were some stressors I experienced today?
  • What were some joyful moments I experienced today?
  • What are the to do lists running through my head? Write them down. Get them out! And tell yourself “I will pick these up first thing tomorrow.”
  • A good ending prompt: What do I need to get out of my brain in order to relax my body to prepare for a deep, restful sleep?

How to end:

  • Sometimes, at the end of the activity you might notice your tone has changed. Maybe you are recalling positive memories from your day or things you are grateful for. Maybe your mind is drawing a blank as your body starts to relax more deeply. Maybe you recall a favorite inspirational quote. Or maybe you need more time. Give yourself what you need, whether it’s more time or a few moments to sit quietly and savor in the quiet you’ve begun to create for yourself. 
  • After this activity, try to stay away from technology (refer to the “Healthy smartphone habits for sleep” activity in the Ginger app) and get yourself prepared for sleep by keeping the relaxing tone you set during your brain dump ritual. 

Getting ready to sleep: 

  • When you get into bed and get cozy, take a few deep breaths and savor the calm you’ve created. If you find your thoughts wandering, remind yourself of your brain dump journal. You’ve got it all down on paper. Now it’s time to rest. Give your mind permission to do so by simply stating, “It’s OK for my mind to rest now. It’s time to recharge and restore my brain for a new day tomorrow.”