When you have trouble sleeping, it may feel like a never-ending cycle. You’re not getting enough sleep, so you’re stressed, and then you’re more stressed because you can’t sleep. Breaking your negative thinking patterns may help you end this cycle and get back to better sleep.
The power of positive thinking
When you’re stressed, negative thinking patterns may be keeping you awake at night. The day’s conversations, projects, deadlines, and decisions loom large when you’re trying to get shut-eye.
A 2016 study found that continuous thinking about negative events in the past or future, known as “perseverative cognition,” is a link between stress and sleep quality.
The next time you find yourself ruminating when you’d rather be sleeping, take a moment to shift your outlook. Case in point: a study examined the relationship between sleep quality and stress in Ph.D. students getting ready to defend a dissertation. Results show that positive outcome expectancy was an important predictor of reduced stress and sleep quality.
Optimistically anticipating the desired outcome may reduce stress and help you sleep better. Researchers at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana found that optimism is associated with more favorable sleep quality and duration. Study participants with higher optimism scores were 74% less likely to have insomnia.
But is positive thinking enough to alter the cycle of stress and sleeplessness?
“For many people, thoughts tend to go toward the negative when the day slows down and they finally lay down to sleep,” says Dr. Kelly Baron, clinical psychologist and Associate Professor in the Division of Public Health, Department of Family and Preventive Medicine, at the University of Utah. “You can be aware of this pattern and stop that train of negative thought using other techniques such as distraction, relaxation, or meditat