Test subjects who wrote down what they had to do the next day fell asleep 10 minutes faster in a new study.
Here’s the write way to fall asleep.
Instead of counting sheep, spend five minutes jotting down what you need to take care of tomorrow – and you may fall asleep 10 minutes faster, according to a new Baylor University study.
“We’ve known for a few years now that the act of writing helps to decrease ‘cognitive arousal’ and worry,” Dr. Michael K. Scullin, Ph.D., director of Baylor’s Sleep Neuroscience and Cognition Laboratory, told Moneyish. “So we started this research with patients with anxiety disorders, and had them write everything they’re anxious about. It helped!”
About 40% of American adults have difficulty falling asleep at least a few times each month, according to the National Sleep Foundation. And these sleep-deprived citizens are spending an estimated $41 billion on sleep aids and remedies, which is expected to hit $52 billion by 2020.
Perhaps they can save some dough by taking what’s keeping them up at night, and putting it down on the page.
Dr. Scullin’s team tried to determine whether jotting down future worries would help subjects offload them and get to sleep, or if thinking about everything they had to do tomorrow would actually keep them up at night.
So the researchers took 57 students, and divided them into two camps: Some spent five minutes writing down everything they had to do the next day, and the others spent five minutes writing down everything they had just accomplished that day. The participants slept in bedrooms in the lab on weeknights, when they would have tasks to do the next day. They also had to turn in by 10:30 p.m., and they weren’t allowed to do homework or use technology after lights out.
Those who wrote out a to-do list fell asleep 9 to 10 minutes faster than those who chronicled everything they’d done the day before. “That’s similar to what some sleep medications have been shown to do in clinical studies,” said Dr. Scullin.
And the more specific participants got in writing their to-do lists, the faster they fell asleep. But the opposite was true for the other group; the more detailed those participants were in writing about everything they’d done that day, the longer it took them doze off.
“It’s possible that writing your accomplishments actually has little or no effect,” said Dr. Scullin, who would like to do a larger study. “But, an alternative possibility is that writing out what you accomplished primes you to think a little about what you still have to do. If you’re only thinking or worrying about what you still have to do — rather than writing it down — then that will make falling asleep more difficult.”
But simply recording what you have to do the next day helps you get it off your mind. “In other words, it helps your brain check off your to-do list,” said Dr. Scullin.
Nothing puts our minds at eases like making a plan. A 2011 Wake Forest University study also found that people who wrote tasks down completed them more effectively than those who went into the activity cold.
And lists also provide a way to organize and prioritize what needs to be done, which makes your workload feel more manageable.
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