Nothing is more frustrating than lying awake at night. It might not happen often, but when it does, sometimes it's without any explanation or reasoning. Sometimes I'll feel completely normal throughout the entire day and follow my schedule to a T, but when I go to rest my head on the pillow—nothing. I toss and turn as I hope to catch a few winks of sleep before my alarm beckons me up the next morning.
According to Time Magazine, the answer to my occasional sleeplessness lies in a new study that was published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology. In it, researchers studied the effects of to-do lists on sleep. Those two things may seem unrelated, but their findings prove that they're not. The results showed that people who wrote down future tasks fell asleep faster than those who didn't.
Half of the participants took five minutes before going to bed to write down a quick to-do list of tasks, goals, and reminders for upcoming days. The other half wrote down things they had already accomplished from the last few days. Those who were in the first group ended up falling asleep a full nine minutes faster than the people in the second group.
"We think that when people offload everything in their mind that might be hard to remember otherwise, it gives them some relief from that rumination," said lead author Michael Scullin, assistant professor of psychology and neuroscience at Baylor University. "It seems to be the act of writing it out that's the key ingredient." So consider this your PSA to purchase a notebook or writing pad to keep on your nightstand and use each day. It will prevent you from having trouble falling asleep.
If nine minutes doesn't seem like a lot to you, consider this: Scullin says that result is comparable to what people experience when using prescription sleep medications. "It's not insignificant," he says. "Getting nine extra minutes of sleep every night can actually make a real difference."
Why not try this out for yourself? It's an easy way to put your mind at ease before sleep. "It's a quick and low-cost thing you can easily do for a few days to see if it has any benefit for you," Scullin says. If trouble falling asleep is persistent, however, he recommends talking to a doctor.