A study from Baylor University found that to-do lists can significantly improve sleep quality if they are done before bedtime.
The study which appeared in the Journal of Experimental Psychology shows that volunteers who agreed to compile a short to-do list just before bedtime reported better sleep quality than their peers.
Study authors explained that the simple task of mentally “offloading” things one needs to urgently do the next day greatly improves sleep. In other words, writing a to-do list helps frees the mind for a restorative sleep.
People are more and more obsessed about things they haven’t finished throughout the day. And those worries prevent them from falling asleep or having a good quality nighttime sleep.
Lead author Michael Scullin explained that most people browse their to-do lists in their minds, but writing them down is a way better move to handle those responsibilities.
The study involved 57 young adults who agreed to spend one weekend in a room called a sleep lab. Participants were asked to shut down all screens at 10:30 p.m. and the sleep lab lacked any other distractions.
Five minutes before going to sleep participants had to do a to-do list for the next days or compile a list with tasks they had managed to complete the other days. Afterwards, volunteers were allowed to go to sleep.
During nighttime, each participants’ brain activity was measured through polysomnography, a screening method that tracks eye movement and biological changes. Volunteers who chose to write to-do lists fell asleep faster than those who wrote the other list.
- Study authors also found that the most specific participants were about their to-do list, the faster they fell asleep.
- By contrast, the group that documented completed activities fell asleep slower if they were more detailed-oriented.
The health benefits of writing a to-do list before bedtime were comparable to those of sleep medications.
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