Just five minutes with a pen and paper before bedtime could 'offload' those whirring thoughts, researchers have found.

A proper night's sleep is an elusive but oh-so precious thing; many of us lie in bed worrying about all our professional and personal responsibilities, when we should really be drifting off into blissful slumber.

It's hard not to get snowed under by those never-ending to-do lists, and they have a pesky habits of whirring around our heads at night.

But - there might be a simple solution: writing those lists down before bed.

New research from Baylor University compared the sleep patterns of people who spent five minutes before bed writing down a to-do list (so making an actual note of all the tasks they still need to get through), with those who wrote down everything they had already completed. The study found that people who wrote down the tasks they needed to do fell asleep, on average, nine minutes faster than the other group.

Nine minutes might not seem like a lot, but that's an hour and three minutes of extra sleep a week, and nearly 55 hours more rest a year - so it really adds up.

The findings might seem a little bit counter-intuitive. After all, it'd be easy to assume that writing down the tasks you've already ticked off would help you feel more relaxed and accomplished, whereas jotting down the things you still need to do would leave you feeling more worried and less likely to drift off.

However, Michael K Scullin, the lead author of the study, says: "The alternative hypothesis is that writing a to-do list will 'offload' those thoughts and reduce worry."

This is why it's important that you actually write the to-do list down, rather than just thinking about it, which would't have the same effect. It's the physical act of putting your thoughts on paper that really helps stop you lying awake and worrying all night. It's almost like writing your tasks down removes them from your mind, as things will feel a little more orderly and in control and you know you can tackle them in the morning.

"We live in a 24/7 culture, in which our to-do lists seem to be constantly growing and causing us to worry about unfinished tasks at bedtime," explains Scullin. "Most people just cycle through their to-do lists in their heads, and so we wanted to explore whether the act of writing them down could counteract night-time difficulties with falling asleep."

Keen to give it a go? Imagine - just dedicating five minutes of your pre-bed ritual to writing a to-do list could be all it takes to get you on track to a dreamier night's sleep...

To get you started, why not try out the Ivy Lee Method? This school of thought says you should limit your list to just six items, prioritising the most important tasks. This could not only help you get more sleep, but also aid productivity the next day. Happy listing!