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Want better sleep? “Count blessings… not sheep.”

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“It may sound simplistic, but the evidence cannot be ignored: if you want to sleep more soundly, count blessings, not sheep.”

~ Robert Emmons [1]

Gratitude is a powerful thing. Expressing sincere thankfulness or appreciation for the positive things in life, no matter how small, can increase overall happiness by 25% [1]. More specifically, research on using a gratitude journal found that simply writing down five things you’re grateful for each day will lead to:

  • Being more interested and excited.
  • Feeling stronger, more joyful, and more energetic.
  • Experiencing more focus, enthusiasm, and determination.
  • Oh, and an overall better outlook on life and the future.

In addition to these amazing overall life changes, people who did a simple “Gratitude Exercise” like the one I am going to teach in this blog post sleep better than those who didn’t. How can this be? Sounds ridiculous right? I thought so to, so I did a little digging was surprised at what I found.

Unwanted thoughts.

It is well known that the thoughts we have around bedtime influence our sleep [1]. Whether positive or negative, our thoughts will change our sleep for the better or worse. In fact, these “pre-sleep cognitions” are strongly correlated to the severity of problems sleeping and the quality of sleep experienced by individuals with insomnia.

Don’t have insomnia and just want to sleep better? Gratitude is just as important for you. The greater one’s general disposition toward appreciating life and the people and things in it, the more likely he or she is to fall asleep faster, sleep deeper, and sleep longer [3]. Now, this sounds great for those people who seem to be able to meet every experience with a big, “thank you so much!” right on the tip of their tongue, right?

Yes, but…it is also good news for those of use who don’t roll through our days so thankful. The connection between gratitude and better sleep was not influenced by other major personality factors. So, “practicing gratitude” will not only get you more in touch with the things that are worth being grateful for but it could also help to shift those all important “pre-sleep cognitions” into a more positive gear. Here’s how:

Bedtime Gratitude Practice:

Do this every night for 14 nights.

  1. About 30 minutes or so before bed, Take 5 minuets to write down 5 experiences or events you are grateful for that happened within the last 24 hours.
  2. Spend 30 seconds thinking about and fully remembering each experience on your list.
  3. Step 2 is REALLY important! The more you focus your thoughts of fully remembering each experience the stronger this exercise will be.

Happy thoughts.

This simple daily practice has the potential to get you falling asleep faster, sleeping more, and waking up feeling more refreshed! If, after 14 nights, you like this exercise and find it helps to direct your bedtime thoughts in a positive direction then keep doing it.

Do you think this will work for you? Have you used a gratitude practice?

Leave a comment below. I’d love to know your thoughts and experiences


References

1. Emmons. Thanks! How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 2007.

2. Park et al. The influence of personality and dysfunctional sleep-related cognition on the severity of insomnia. Psychiatr Res 2012;197:275-279.

3. Wood et al. Gratitude influences sleep through the mechanism of pre-sleep cognitions. J Psychosom Res 2009;66:43-48.

Related articles

Starting a Gratitude Journal (truefoodlove.wordpress.com)

Thankful Thursday – Robert Emmons: What Good Is Gratitude? (minusthebox.org)

If you think this connection between gratitude and sleep is interesting, take a look at this article that discusses how poor sleep make us less appreciative. Surprising Connections Between Our Well-Being and Giving, Getting, and Gratitude.

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