You know the feeling.
You do your skincare, put on your cosiest pyjamas, drink a cup of chamomile tea and even throw on some white noise.
You have created the most perfect sleep surroundings possible. It’s all dimmed lighting and blackout blinds.
Then you fall into the nest that is your bed. It is full of pillows that are fluffy and filled and fine. Nothing could go wrong.
You are about to have the best sleep of your life.
However, disaster strikes. Just as you want to switch off, your brain decides to switch on.
It swirls and swirls with endless worries, random anecdotes, memories and questions.
You can’t shut it off. It’s like a crowded buzzing room where every thought is a person grasping for attention.
The end result is that you can’t drift off and any dreams you had of a good sleep are wasted.
So, how can you get around such a problem?
Well, next time, try a brain dump.
How to do a brain dump
Exactly what is says on the tin, a brain dump is a place to shove all your thoughts.
Memories? Put them in the bin.
Bad thoughts? Thrown them straight into that metaphorical bin.
Worries? Leave it to the bin man to worry about in the morning.
According to NLP and multiple brain coach and trainer Sarah Fletcher, brain dumps can be done in two ways.
‘The first is a written brain dump,’ she explains.
‘It is a simple technique to declutter your mind and thoughts. Take a few moments to write down everything that has happened in the day that you are still carrying mentally and physically.
‘Let it flow through you as you write it down and make a conscious effort to relax your shoulders, face and breathing as you do it.
‘This is great to do before bed as you can clear your mind and relax your body so as to be ready for sleep. Set an intention to do this purely as a mental clearing activity if you’re doing it before bed.’
Sarah says that the second way to brain dump is through a mental and meditative state.
‘Once you are in a state of calm, you can do this simple mental brain dumping activity,’ she notes.
‘Invite your thoughts from the day to reveal themselves. You might notice words, pictures, sounds, sensations or feelings. As you invite them in say ‘thank you’ and acknowledge them. Rather than engaging with them and attempting to change them, judge them or respond to them, just allow them to come and go as you observe.
‘You can enhance this practice by placing one hand on your heart and one on your abdomen. With your hand on your heart send kind loving thoughts and feelings to yourself and with your hand on your abdomen, breathe deeply repeating a mantra of kindness and safety.
‘Say “I’m calm, I’m safe” and allow your body to relax.’
Benefits of doing a brain dump
In a lot of ways, brain dumping is similar to journalling. However, instead of using prompts and structure, you let the words flow based on what is in your brain at that time.
Sleep coach Dave Gibson of the Sleep Site says this method is particularly therapeutic.
‘The main benefit of this is stress relief,’ he says. ‘It is especially good for those who tend to heavily think and ponder in the evenings or once they are in bed. It is also a handy tool if you worry about forgetting tasks that are needed for the next day.
‘Equally if you are doing it to work out where you are emotionally, it can give clarity. Items and ideas that seem to pop up in the wee hours are easier to wade through as you are more objective emotionally.’
If you wish to brain dump in conjunction with sleep, Dave said it is imperative to do so in a separate room.
‘You need to allow a bit of time before bed and always do it outside of the bedroom,’ he explains.
‘This maintains your bedroom as a sanctuary for sleep. You train your brain to know that your bedroom is not a place where you think about work or life stresses, it is just a place to unwind and rest.’
Most importantly to feel the true benefits of brain dumping, Dave says it needs to be a habit.
‘It’s vital to stick with it,’ he urges. ‘Otherwise, it works at random and not continuously.
‘Each time we repeat anything to make it a ‘habit’ we become better and better at doing this.
‘So even if it doesn’t feel natural at the start, stay with it.
‘It’s an invaluable part of not only sleep hygiene but helps to reduce stress, anxiety and leads you to a clear mind.’