During the pandemic, Covid-19 swept across the world. So did a wave of sleep problems. Thanks to a host of factors including increased screen time, stress, and alcohol consumption, nearly two out of three Americans were reporting some kind of sleep issue by mid-2021. The hangover effects of all those restless nights are still being felt by many today. 

"Once sleep is disrupted, it can impact mental and physical health, which may in turn cause further sleep disruption," Athena Akrami, a neuroscientist at University College London, explains. "A vicious cycle may form that is very difficult to diagnose and treat properly."

How to get back to healthier sleep 

How do you get back to a healthier sleep routine? The answer will be different for each person, and finding the right intervention is often a matter of trial and error. Which is why over the past year or so I've been collecting a grab bag of promising sounding, research-backed sleep advice here on Inc.com. Because, after all, you're unlikely to maximize your business's success if you can barely keep your eyes open half the time. 

I discovered the latest of these in the middle of an episode of The Science of Happiness podcast on the science of better sleep. The episode takes the form of a conversation between UC Berkeley psychology professor Dacher Keltner and Drew Ackerman, the creator of the Sleep With Me podcast, which offers sleep-inducing bedtime stories for weary listeners. 

A lifelong insomniac, Ackerman hits Keltner up for research-backed suggestions to help him sleep better. Many of Keltner's answers are worthy if familiar -- no late-day caffeine, less screen time before bed, etc. But one was both new to me and instantly seemed like a good idea. It's called a worry journal, and it's just what it sounds like. The idea is you take just a minute or two to spill out all your thoughts and worries onto paper before shutting out the light so they can't keep you up by endlessly circling around your brain. 

A magic two-minute trick for better sleep?

Ackerman was intrigued by the idea too. "I definitely tried some of the practices, and the worry journal was the one that really drew me in because I had, I think I had heard about that. But it's something I'd never tried. I tried it out over the past week. Doing it a few hours before bed with the idea of kind of capturing it or releasing it was powerful," he explains.

How exactly did the experiment go? For Ackerman at least, the results of just a minute or two of pre-bed writing were impressive. 

"Doing it a few hours before bed did give myself or my subconscious or whatever it is a little bit of time to process it and be like, 'Hey, it's going to be OK.' Like, 'This isn't that big a deal,'" he reports. "Those kinds of natural organic tools were able to be in place before I tried to go to sleep and again try to process it and be like, 'Oh, no, what am I going to do now? I'd better start planning.'"

His wording is a little jumbled, but the overall message is clear. Simply dumping his worries out of his head and onto the page before bed helped quiet his anxiety so he could get to sleep faster. Could spending a couple of minutes on this dead simple intervention have similar results for you?