Can’t sleep? Write a to do list!
Do you lie awake at night waiting to drift off to sleep but your mind’s too busy? If so, this recent study tells how if you can’t sleep, write a to do list to whisk you off to slumberland.
It turns out that a cause of busy-brain-syndrome is unconsciously trying to remember everything. There’s an ever-increasing volume of tasks, meetings and deadlines we need to keep track of. It’s just too much!
This article from MNT explains more:
“Recently, Michael K. Scullin and other researchers from Baylor University in Waco, TX, set out to investigate whether writing down all the tasks that we have to finish over the next day or two could help us to achieve a more peaceful state of mind, conducive to falling asleep more easily.
“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 night-time difficulties with falling asleep.”
“There are two schools of thought about this,” says Scullin. “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,” he adds, “is that writing a to-do list will ‘offload’ those thoughts and reduce worry.”
To monitor the participants’ brain activity at bedtime, the team used polysomnography, which is a test that records multiple sleep-related physiological parameters. Electrical brain activity, for instance, is monitored through electrodes attached to the scalp.
The participants were asked to go to bed at 10:30 p.m. “in a controlled environment,” where, Scullin explains, “[w]e absolutely restricted any technology, homework, etc. It was simply lights out after they got into bed.”
The experiment confirmed the working hypothesis that writing down a to-do list enumerating outstanding tasks helped the participants who engaged in this exercise to fall asleep more quickly.
The same was not true for their counterparts, who listed tasks that they had completed that day or in the previous days.
Although Scullin and team got the confirmation that they wanted in their study, they warn that the small participant sample size does not lend itself well to broader conclusions and advise that the experiment’s findings should be duplicated in a larger study.
So what does this mean for you?
In today’s world, it’s simply too much to expect your mind to just switch off when you shut your eyes.
Here’s what to do: last thing at night, when you can’t sleep, write a to do list of everything that needs to be done or remembered tomorrow.
This way, your brain doesn’t need to keep track of it at all. Your unconscious mind knows it’s all on the to-do list and it can relax. Whether you prefer a to-do list app, One-Note, Evernote, Todoist or a scrap of paper by the bedside. So when you can’t sleep write a to do list!
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