Want to sleep well tonight? The secret just might be writing down what you need to do tomorrow. Researchers at Baylor University's Sleep Neuroscience and Cognition Laboratory recently published the results of a study showing that people who write out a to-do list before bedtime fell asleep an average of nine minutes quicker than those who didn't, Live Science reports. That’s comparable to the improvement seen with some sleep medicines. "Most people just cycle through their to-do lists in their heads, and so we wanted to explore whether the act of writing them down could counteract nighttime difficulties with falling asleep," said the study's lead author, Michael Scullin of Baylor University, in a press release.
During the study, 57 men and women between the ages of 18 and 30 were split into two groups. The first group was told to write out a to-do list for five minutes while the other group was asked to write about already-completed tasks for the same amount of time. Subjects were then told to go straight to bed, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. “There are two schools of thought about this,” Scullin says. “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 and reduce worry.” The study was published in the January issue of the Journal of Experimental Psychology. (Read more sleep stories.)