Saying “thank you” might help you go to sleep at night. For anyone who has ever experienced sleeplessness, practicing giving thanks could be the answer to finally getting some rest.
So how exactly do you harness the power of a thank you to get more refreshing sleep? You might want to trade in that nightly medicine you’re taking or the expensive yoga class you attend for some simple habits of gratitude.
The Science Behind Gratefulness and Sleep
Besides sleeping on a bad bed, having negative or worried thoughts is one of the biggest barriers to a good night’s sleep. In a study conducted at the University of California, Davis, researchers examined the psychological effects of a grateful view of life versus a focus on life’s burdens. Study participants documented a list of things each night that made them feel grateful. After three weeks, these participants reported sleeping longer and better.
The National Institutes of Health observed subjects thinking grateful thoughts, and examined the blood flow in the regions of their brains. When those participants were focusing on gratitude, dopamine transmitters fired more strongly. This neurotransmitter makes your brain feel rewarded, but also helps to initiate action so that your brain will want to repeat what you just did. If that action is gratitude, it will become easier and easier to practice it.
Your insomnia might be stemming from the stress and anxiety of what the next day holds. At the University of Manchester in England, 400 adults, 40% with sleep disorders, were tested to see how the expression of gratitude affected their sleep quality. The group completed questionnaires about their pre-sleep thoughts, and how gratitude affected them. Thinking of things they felt thankful for evoked more positive thoughts overall, and proved a positive correlation between gratitude and sleep.
How to Practice Gratitude for a Better Night’s Sleep
It’s hard to argue against the idea that being more thankful helps you to sleep better at night. Making an attitude of gratitude a habit, however, may prove easier said than done. Building a few tips into your routine to help boost the thankfulness in your life can lead to a more rejuvenated quality of life.
Make a Gratitude Journal
This might be one of the easiest things you can do to improve your nightly sleep schedule. Get a journal and commit to detailing three to five aspects of your life that you feel grateful about. You might want to journal just before you go to bed to keep the thoughts fresh in your mind while you drift off. The Ananda Adjustable Head Tilt Base is a perfect way to write in bed, because it adjusts with voice commands to move you to a perfect writing position. To keep in the habit, write reminders to yourself in places other than your bedroom. Keeping a note in your car or at work to remind yourself about your new habit can help keep you accountable.
When first getting into the habit of creating a list of things to be grateful for, thinking of ideas might come easily. However, after a few days, thinking of what to write down might get a little more challenging. If you’re running low on ideas, start to think more critically about the world around you. For example, you can consider being thankful for the gas in your car or the farmer who helped create the food you ate for lunch today. You can express appreciation for your dentist, your hot water, your cell phone service, or the way your favorite houseplant adds color to your home. The more detailed you get, the more you can rewire your brain for the positive.
Use Your Senses
Looking at the world through the lense of your senses also helps promote a sense of gratitude. When reframing your brain to focus on gratitude, think about the sights you see, sounds, smells, touch, and taste. Pausing to smell the rain, appreciating your favorite food, or feeling the softness of a nice sweater can magnify the things you feel grateful for. Boost your attention to your senses by doing something for yourself before bedtime. You can light a candle and hone in on the smell, do some stretches, drink tea, or treat yourself to whatever puts you in touch with a thankful attitude.
Learning how to meditate on thankfulness can give you another powerful tool for your sleep strategy practice. One study showed how focusing on “moment-by-moment experiences” helped lessen symptoms of depression, insomnia, and fatigue. Being thankful helps you hone in on grateful moments, and push away those thoughts that might be distracting you from getting the best rest you can. Taking a few moments at night or even throughout your day to close your eyes and focus on the positive aspects of your life can retrain your perspective, and help you feel more relaxed when trying to fall asleep.
Even if you’re not feeling grateful, practicing the motions of gratitude can help trigger that emotion. The action of physically smiling can tell your brain you’re feeling happy or thankful. Getting in the habit of saying thank you more often also helps to remind you that you have things to be thankful for. You can even go the extra mile and write a letter to someone who you want to express thanks to. During a study at the University of Pennsylvania, participants wrote and delivered a letter of gratitude to someone in their lives, and their levels of happiness skyrocketed immediately.
Being grateful is just one part of the puzzle that will finally solve your sleep problems. The other missing piece is likely the quality of your old bed. To learn more about just how much of an impact a specially designed mattress can make, learn more about Ananda’s Adjustable Base Sleep System. Combine gratefulness with a great bed, and you’ll be drifting off to sleep before you know it.