If your New Year’s resolution was to lose weight, be more productive, or get more sleep, we’ve got a great hack that will only take five minutes and help you accomplish all three!
A recent study in the Journal of Experimental Psychology showed writing a list of things that you want to accomplish the following day can help you fall asleep faster and get a better night of shut-eye.
Michael Scullin, director of Baylor’s Sleep Neuroscience and Cognition Laboratory, asked 57 university students to either write down a to-do list for the next few days or write down the things they had accomplished in the preceding days a few minutes before going to sleep. The results found that those who made a to-do list before they went to bed fell asleep much faster than those who had itemized the weeks’ achievements.
The researchers asked the students to spend the night in the lab, with a strict lights out at 10:30 pm, so as to minimize the many variables that could affect their sleep routine.
Given how many factors contribute to a good night of sleep–for example, eating lots of fish, or keeping the window open–Scullin admits a larger, more comprehensive study would need to be conducted to make any conclusive statements. Still, from a psychological standpoint, the benefit of making a to-do list is easy to see.
“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” Scullin wrote in the university newsletter. “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. 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.”
At the end of the day (no pun intended), it’s worth giving it a try. After all, studies have shown that people perform better when they have written down what they need to do. And if the list helps you fall asleep, then it’ll also help you lose weight, since studies have shown that a good night of rest can contribute to a slimmer waistline. So it’s a win-win-win!
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