The Nighttime Habit That Alex Rodriguez, Bill Gates, and Richard Branson Swear By

Research shows it will set you up for a better night of sleep, and a more productive day to follow.

Jim McIsaac / Stringer/ Getty Images
Jim McIsaac / Stringer/ Getty Images

Our bedtime habits hold the power to determine how we sleep during the night, how we wake up feeling in the morning, and how we cope with stress the following day. Notable leaders have shared their favorite nightly routines, from carving out time for meditation, making their bedrooms into a tech-free space, or even reading a calming book — and while there’s science behind each of these habits, Alex Rodriguez says go-to ritual comes down to pen and paper.

“I’m old school,” the former MLB player recently told The New York Times Magazine in an interview. “The other day, Jennifer said something brilliant at, like, 2 in the morning. I reached over to get my notebook, and everything falls on the floor. Then I grabbed it and wrote it down.”

Rodriguez says he remembers things better once he writes them down, and he first began writing his to-do list each night as a professional baseball player, in order to prioritize and protect his time while training. “I was in love with that structure,” he said. “I had a list of my 10 things I had to do, and I would check it every night before I went to bed to see how many I’d done.”

Research shows writing down a few thoughts or tasks down at night can benefit your well-being by allowing you to sleep better, and lowering the stress surrounding your daily to-do list. A 2018 study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology found that participants who engaged in the practice fell asleep faster than those who did not — and a study from Baylor University found that individuals even reported feeling less worried before going to sleep.

Rodriguez isn’t the only successful person who swears by the healthy habit. In 2016, Richard Branson wrote a blog post about Bill Gates’ note-taking ritual, and why he admires Gates for consistently keeping up with the practice. “Despite being renowned for his computer genius, he is not above the humble pen and paper,” Branson wrote. Additionally, Shelly Ibach, Thrive Global’s Sleep Editor-at-Large and the CEO of Sleep Number, says listing her thoughts before bed helps her brain relax and allows her body to drift into a deeper sleep.

While your nightly habits depend on your own lifestyle and the moment of calm you require to wake up happy, it’s important to identify what works for you, and implement it into your regular routine. And if you’re unsure of where to start, try taking out a notepad and scribbling down the first couple thoughts that come into your mind at night. You may end up sleeping better because of it.

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