A Psychologist’s Simple Trick For Falling Asleep Way Faster

By writing down your to-do list at night, naturopathic sleep doctor Catherine Darley, N.D., previously told mbg that you’re essentially putting your stress to bed. She recommends taking a few minutes to do so about an hour before you’d like to fall asleep.

When we reached out to licensed clinical psychologist Elena Welsh, Ph.D., for her take, she confirmed the mental health benefits of a good-ol’ nighttime list. “There is research that jotting [to-do’s] down, thus relieving your brain of having to keep track of it them, is associated with longer sleep and better quality of sleep,” Welsh says.

The best evidence of this comes from a 2018 study out of Baylor University’s Sleep Neuroscience and Cognition Laboratory. For that research, 57 healthy university students completed a 5-minute writing assignment before having their sleep monitored. They either journaled on tasks they had already completed or wrote about tasks they needed to remember to complete in the next few days.

The students who wrote down future tasks fell asleep significantly faster than those who wrote about previous tasks. And interestingly enough, the more detailed their to-do list, the faster they fell asleep. This caused the study’s authors to conclude that “to facilitate falling asleep, individuals may derive benefit from writing a very specific to-do list for 5 min at bedtime rather than journaling about completed activities.”

Welsh says this research tracks with what we know about human psychology. “If we have something we want to remember to do, it feels like an open tab in our brain. It’s there taking up resources,” she explains. By getting it out on paper, we’re rinsing out some mental space so the brain can more easily slip into sleep mode.

Once you do, Darley suggests following it up with another calming activity to continue to get your mind off things before bed. You can read a book, do a relaxing meditation, or take a sleep-promoting supplement. (Here are our all-time favorites for improving your zzz’s.)*

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