The Effects of Bedtime Writing on Difficulty Falling Asleep: A Polysomnographic Study Comparing To-Do Lists and Completed Activity Lists

J Exp Psychol Gen. 2018 Jan;147(1):139-146. doi: 10.1037/xge0000374. Epub 2017 Oct 23.

Abstract

Bedtime worry, including worrying about incomplete future tasks, is a significant contributor to difficulty falling asleep. Previous research showed that writing about one's worries can help individuals fall asleep. We investigated whether the temporal focus of bedtime writing-writing a to-do list versus journaling about completed activities-affected sleep onset latency. Fifty-seven healthy young adults (18-30) completed a writing assignment for 5 min prior to overnight polysomnography recording in a controlled sleep laboratory. They were randomly assigned to write about tasks that they needed to remember to complete the next few days (to-do list) or about tasks they had completed the previous few days (completed list). Participants in the to-do list condition fell asleep significantly faster than those in the completed-list condition. The more specifically participants wrote their to-do list, the faster they subsequently fell asleep, whereas the opposite trend was observed when participants wrote about completed activities. Therefore, 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. (PsycINFO Database Record

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Anxiety / physiopathology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Polysomnography / methods*
  • Sleep / physiology*
  • Time Factors
  • Writing*
  • Young Adult