You’ve had some herbal tea, you shut off your devices, your room is cool, and the lights are off. You basically have the perfect ritual to fall fast asleep. And yet, here you are wide awake staring at the ceiling. What’s going on?
Well, some of us simply can’t fall asleep regardless of our environment because we simply have too much on our minds.
Did you lock your car door? Did you pick up the mail? What other errands do you have to complete tomorrow? It’s no wonder you can’t sleep with so much on your mind.
This is where new research findings come to the rescue to help you get those things off your mind so you can enjoy a good night’s sleep.
The study looked at 57 university students who either spent five minutes prior to bed jotting down everything they needed to do the following day or jotting down all they had accomplished.
The participants who made the to-do list fell asleep faster than those who wrote down what they had completed.
Study author Michael Scullin explained, “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. There are two schools of thought about this. One is that writing about the future would lead to increased worry about unfinished tasks and delay sleep. The alternative hypothesis is that writing a to-do list will ‘off-load’ those thoughts and reduce worry.”
“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,” he continued.
Although the findings are promising, larger-scale studies need to be carried out to validate the findings.
Scullin added, “Measures of personality, anxiety, and depression might moderate the effects of writing on falling asleep, and that could be explored in an investigation with a larger sample. [Also] we recruited healthy young adults, and so we don’t know whether our findings would generalize to patients with insomnia, though some writing activities have previously been suggested to benefit such patients.”
It doesn’t hurt to give the theory of generating a to-do list to improve sleep a try. If you find that your anxieties about what needs to be done keep you awake, consider taking a few moments prior to bed to make a list of what needs to be done for some relief.