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  • How to capture thoughts while falling asleep?

    I tend to take an hour or so to fall asleep at night, and while I'm laying there comfortably I tend to have some thoughts during that hour that I would like to capture. If I roll over, grab a flashlight, grab a pen and paper on my side table, and write a note, I can capture that thought but my general train of thought gets thrown off track and it takes me several minutes to get comfortably situated again, and to get my "happy train of thought" rolling along again.

    Part of the problem is that I have been diagnosed with low blood pressure.

    Another part of the problem which I failed to mention so far is that my wife is often laying next to me falling asleep as well, and I don't really want to wake her up. She tends to fall asleep much faster than me, but she can be easily woken, or at least disturbed, by my rolling around grabbing my flashlight and pen and writing a note, and rolling back into a comfortable position again.

    Sometimes I try to go to bed an hour earlier than she does, which does seem to lessen the effects of keeping her awake, but it's still difficult generally to capture thoughts while drifting to sleep, or simply laying in bed comfortably.

    I guess what I'm getting at here is I'm wondering if anyone has a technique of capturing those thoughts without moving bodily. Some sort of a short-term "mnemonic" technique, or some other techniquie whereby I could "remember" those thoughts until the morning, and capture them onto paper upon arising.

    I can't seem to remember my thoughts in the morning, at least not without a technique.

    Any takers?

    Thanks,
    Chas29

  • #2
    I think a better practice would be to just go to sleep. Sometimes I can't sleep because I'm wide awake. In those rare cases I get up and do something until I'm more settled. The thing I often need to do is capturing.

    However, if this is interfering with your sleep every night, I think a different approach might be more appropriate. There are meditative techniques that might be able to help you get to sleep. I'm no expert on meditation but a technique someone taught me to stop unwanted and distracting thoughts it to count your breaths. Count them up to 7 and then go back to 1. If you find yourself at a higher number just smile, forgive yourself and start again.

    I was taught this one time when I went for a massage and have used it to help me sleep on several occasions.

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    • #3
      One thing you might try is to write your thoughts on paper but not use any flashlight or any other light. The light may be more disruptive to both your sleep and your wife's than the movements. I sometimes capture thoughts by writing in the dark. There may be a tiny bit of light so I can see whether I'm writing on top of other writing, or I might just go by feel to know what part of the page I'm on and remember where I've written. I usually write just one or two words for each idea. Sometimes I space them too far apart (using up paper; that's OK since I'll likely erase and re-use it) or rarely I've written two things on top of each other.

      You can try to store your paper closer to your bed so you can just reach over and get it without rolling over: possibly keeping it under your pillow or on the far side of your pillow, or modifying the furniture so there's a shelf or table within reach (designed to avoid bumping your head, though).

      I guess recently my strategy has been to either just fall asleep, or use mnemonics. I like books like "The Memory Book" by Jerry Lucas and Harry Lorrayne, or "A Sheep Falls Out of A Tree" by Christiane Stenger, which teach mnemonic techniques. Here's an idea I just thought of: each evening before falling asleep, draw a picture on a pad of paper or put a picture or object or book beside your bed -- a different one each time; something giving an interesting visual image. Then, when you think of ideas while falling asleep, connect them in your mind to that image. For example, if it's an image of a lion, and the idea is "must remember to bring that report with me when I go to work", you could imagine yourself sitting on the lion's back and spreading the report out across the lion's back with difficulty while the lion moves around wildly. The more ridiculous the image, the easier it will be to remember. If you use a fiction book you know well as the anchor, you could connect different ideas to different scenes in the book.

      I like to distinguish between active memory and passive memory. Active memory is like "I must remember to do that." Passive memory is like "I know that person's phone number". Passive memory doesn't bother you -- it doesn't prevent you from having a mind like water. So as soon as you've memorized something adequately so that you're confident that when you look at the picture of the lion in the morning you'll be able to remember it, then the thought won't keep you awake.

      You might like the book "Insomniac" by Gayle Greene. Tryptophan, 5-hydroxy-tryptophan (5HTP) or melatonin can help people fall asleep. I think aerobic exercise can help raise low blood pressure.
      Last edited by cwoodgold; 12-23-2012, 08:05 PM. Reason: Added a paragraph

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      • #4
        I have no interesting thoughts.

        Originally posted by Chas29 View Post
        I tend to take an hour or so to fall asleep at night, and while I'm laying there comfortably I tend to have some thoughts during that hour that I would like to capture.
        Unfortunately I have no interesting thoughts when I am falling asleep at night. Sometimes I try to read something in bed but after two pages my Kindle wakes me up when it slides out of my hand.

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        • #5
          [QUOTE=cfoley] I think a better practice would be to just go to sleep.


          I think you are right, cfoley. Which means I guess I need to "get stuff out of my head" earlier in the day somehow, perhaps allowing 30-60 minutes of quiet contemplative time at the end of the day (with pen in hand, lol).

          Hmm. I'm still not sure, but it sounds like a reasonable idea.

          Chas29

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          • #6
            [QUOTE=cwoodgold]
            You can try to store your paper closer to your bed so you can just reach over and get it without rolling over


            That's a good idea, cwoodgold. I might try that. Another idea I just had was to use my cellphone rather than pen, paper, and flashlight. I could turn the backlight on the phone real low, and type my notes with one hand. As with the pen and paper, I could also try storing the cellphone closer to the bed like you said, cwoodgold. Thanks for that suggestion.

            Chas29

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            • #7
              Sleep is something I don't get enough of so I don't bother capturing any thoughts running through my head - I just enjoy thinking about stuff while I'm dropping off. If I was to start jotting down ideas that would just delay me falling asleep.

              If it's a good idea I'll think of it another time, probably during a mind sweep.
              Last edited by McHamish; 12-24-2012, 06:22 AM. Reason: typo

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              • #8
                I'll echo the suggestion to spend maybe 15-20 minutes before bedtime with paper and pen and do a mind sweep.

                But then another thing to do is keep the pen and paper close to the bed and learn to write without turning on the light. It takes a bit of practice but is perfectly doable. Also learn and use some abbreviations so that you don't have to write much to remember the item. A pad of small sheets of paper (mine right now is the back side of those one page a day tear off calendars stapled together) and several pens is a good solution. From experience a pencil is not as good. The lead tends to break when you try to write w/o light because it's harder to judge where the paper and the tendency is to press to hard. Put one note or idea per page and tear it off and leave on the nightstand. In the morning gather them all up and process them.

                This also works for the wake up in the middle of the night things which is how I most often use it.

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                • #9
                  I will definitely review David's mind sweep technique(s). That will likely be helpful.

                  Thanks guys for that. I will let you know if I have any questions related to the mind sweep.

                  Chas29

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                  • #10
                    Hello! I would like some Application advice. I have been using Google Tasks for my task list and it has been functional but I am sure there is a better solution. It doesn't need to handle projects, nested hierarchies, due dates, priorities or calendar integration. What I do need more than anything is an autosyncing Android application with a nice scrollable widget (currently using Gtask as my phone app). If it is an application, it needs to be Windows, if it is browser based, it needs to be able to work in Chrome. That is about it, thanks!

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by albertstien3329 View Post
                      Hello! I would like some Application advice. I have been using Google Tasks for my task list and it has been functional but I am sure there is a better solution. It doesn't need to handle projects, nested hierarchies, due dates, priorities or calendar integration. What I do need more than anything is an autosyncing Android application with a nice scrollable widget (currently using Gtask as my phone app). If it is an application, it needs to be Windows, if it is browser based, it needs to be able to work in Chrome. That is about it, thanks!
                      If you don't get the answers you want here, you may want to try the other forum, "PUBLIC: Discuss Gear & Software for GTD", and post your question as the beginning of a new thread there. (Click on "Post new thread" when viewing the list of topics in the forum.)

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                      • #12
                        Lack of sleep, not lack of technique

                        I am with the sheep on this one. Sleep is the priority, not ideas.
                        The lack of sleep is a bigger problem than people realize.

                        If I could wave a magic wand over the country, one thing I would do is put a force field around the bedroom. The bed is for 2 things. Two things. That is it. The force field would keep Kindles, iPhones, iPads, iCan'tSleep, tvs, DVDs, DVRs, PCs...only Zzzzzz allowed. What would happen?

                        First, better sex, more sex. Fewer car accidents because people could concentrate on the road instead of covering their yawns. Less dips in the afternoon.

                        Remember, David's system is there so you can be at your best all the time. He says it himself, "That includes taking the best nap."

                        Go to bed. Ditch the electronics, ditch the paper, the flashlight and the notepad.
                        Good night.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Almost Done View Post
                          Go to bed. Ditch the electronics, ditch the paper, the flashlight and the notepad.
                          I agree that sleep is a high priority. However, do people actually sleep better if they don't have a pad of paper next to their bed? I can see it working either way. People might sleep better if they write something down rather than lying there trying to memorize it or not being able to stop worrying about what would happen if they just forget about it. Or, people might sleep better if they get in the habit of not expecting a pad of paper to be handy. I'm assuming for now that it's better for me to have a pad of paper handy. This may be something that each individual needs to work out for themselves.

                          I'm not convinced that it's worthwhile to use bed for only 2 things. (Why those specific 2 things?) I don't remember seeing evidence or good arguments for this. Any reason not to use bed for meditation? Stretching exercises?
                          Listening to relaxing music? Any actual evidence that reading in bed disturbs sleep more than reading somewhere else before going to bed?

                          I heard that it's not a good idea to check one's email in the last few hours before going to sleep. This makes sense to me. Part of it may be the brightness of the computer screen, which tends to signal the body that it's daytime. That can be modulated by adjusting the colours. But part of it is that you lie there thinking about what you're going to say in response to some of those emails. It's stimulating, in a way that reading a book isn't.

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