Many people find it difficult to fall asleep every night. Researchers found that the simple task of journaling five minutes before bedtime can help people to fall asleep faster.
In a fast paced world, many people are finding it difficult to fall asleep with so many things running through their minds perhaps about work or about home life. A lot of it, according to the researchers of a new study, has to do with worries, including worries about tasks that are yet to be accomplished.
Researchers gave 57 participants a journaling task to be accomplished for five minutes before bedtime in a controlled sleep laboratory. Some of them had to write about the things they had accomplished for the day while the others were asked to write a to-do list.
What researchers found was that those who were given the task of writing a to-do list actually fell asleep nine minutes faster than those who had to write about their accomplished tasks. In fact, the more specific they were about their to-do lists, the faster that they fell asleep. Interestingly, the opposite was observed among those tasked with writing their accomplishments for the day. The longer the list of completed tasks, the longer it took to fall asleep.
The Act Of Writing
One would think that writing a list of things to do the next day or in the coming days would keep a person up at night with thoughts of unaccomplished tasks, but researchers believe that it is the mere act of writing that makes all the difference. Without it, the thoughts of worry and the stress are kept in the mind whereas physically writing the list down on paper relieves the mind just enough to be able to sleep faster.
The findings of the study may not seem much at a glance but sleep deprivation is a serious health issue that has been linked to major health problems. Further, researchers note that the nine extra minutes of sleep from writing a to-do list is actually comparable to sleep improvements in clinical trials for prescription sleep aids, making it a viable alternative that's quick and cheap.
The current findings support previous studies showing journaling as an effective tool for worry and stress relief. Just last September, researchers found that writing down feelings reduces stress and worry, and allows for task performance without making the brain work too hard. Specifically, the participants who wrote down their feelings performed just as accurately but more efficiently as those who wrote down their activities the previous day.
"There's something about the act of writing, physically writing something on paper, that tends to offload it a little bit, or help us hit the pause button on it," said Michael K. Scullin, lead author of the paper.
The study is published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology.