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We Don’t need ‘to do’ lists to fall asleep, we need day and night

Something's gone horribly wrong if we're making to do lists before bedtime to get us sleeping better.

Image by Madi Doell

A recent study has found that jotting down a ‘to do’ list before going to bed helps to fall asleep faster. In fact, the 9 minute difference (or 15 minutes if the list was detailed) in the time it took test participants to fall asleep shows that – although we’ve known this for decades – our high stress lifestyles are chipping away at the very basis of our wellbeing: sleep.

Indeed the accumulation of daily tasks, work commitments and even family life demands high frequency attention that is sometimes difficult to put aside at the end of each day. But being able to shut off from the noise and focus on one thing only in the lead up to our bedtime might be key to sleeping better. Whether its focusing inwards, into our intuition, thought process or even our biological mechanism – or outwards to our surrounding, what the ‘to do’ list does is essentially just narrow down attention and slow down the activity of the brain. 

What if the stress relieving and mind focusing act of writing down listicles before bedtime was simply replaced by a more sustainable, long lasting habit? Because, after all, what are ‘to do’ lists but an ingrained modernised habit that wants to both control and make order of the chaos that is everyday life itself. We tend to prescribe medication to conditions that can be treated with exercise; we build technology that un-teaches us things that our ancestors have been doing for centuries, and we endorse habits that are simply painting over the issues that lay a fraction beneath.

If focus is essential to our balanced wellbeing, then we at LYS Technologies propose light becomes that focal point. It seems abstract, but light might be one of the main aspects our cells are focusing on throughout the day, so how harmful can it be to set our mind to it too? Because integrating light-consciousness into our day-to-day lifestyle is an exercise both for the mind and the body; the benefits of attuning to our surrounding light within our own 24 hour rhythm will ultimately dictate how long it takes us to fall asleep, what time we will wake up naturally and how stress, and energy and concentration and metabolic activity all function side by side throughout the day.

As intriguing as the results from the Baylor University study are, it seems that they also demand a closer look at a growing issue: the thirst to find ways to unwind and restore sleep. Sometimes all it takes is a return to where it all began, to the basics, stripping away the modernity of it all and attuning back to the foundations: light.

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