Most of us are used to creating a to-do list at the beginning of each day or the start of each week – they help charge our motors and keep us focused. But a new study also shows this 5-minute hack will help you fall asleep faster.
The study from Baylor University found that people who wrote to-do lists fell asleep nine minutes faster than people who journaled about the previous day. Also, the more specific the lists were, the sooner people conked out. Nine minutes may not seem like a lot, but the study’s authors say that’s not much different than the effect of some sleep medications.
“There are two schools of thought about this,” said lead author Michael K. Scullin in a statement. “One is that writing about the future would lead to increased worry about unfinished tasks and delay sleep, while journaling about completed activities should not trigger worry.
“The alternative hypothesis is that writing a to-do list will ‘offload’ those thoughts from consciousness…and thereby decrease sleep onset latency, relative to journaling about completed activities (which need not be ‘off-loaded’ because they have already been completed),” he said.
In other words, our eager-to-sleep, yet still buzzing brains can effectively “dump” a bunch of the stuff we’re constantly trying to keep track of if we write it down. This extremely simple practice seems to free your brain and allow it to sleep.
“We live in a 24/7 culture in which our to-do lists seem to be constantly growing and causing us to worry about unfinished tasks at bedtime,” said Scullin. “Most people just cycle through their to-do lists in their heads.” From now on, let them go by writing them down to help you fall asleep faster.