That sounds so simple, doesn’t it?
Just think positive and you’re on your way to better sleep. It sounds like something your well-meaning best friend would say when you told her you didn’t sleep last night. Again.
The trouble is she doesn’t see you sitting on the couch at 1am, 2am, etc., crying because your whole body aches for sleep but going to bed is pointless. What’s the use? Once you’re there you’re wide awake anyway.
During the day you’re tired and irritable and all you can think about is the sleep you didn’t get last night and the sleep you’re not going to get tonight either.
That was actually me a few years ago. Sleep was something I got precious little of. My life consisted of OTC sleep meds (which didn’t really help me sleep), exhaustion, and frustration.
That’s when I decided I needed to get proactive when it came to my sleep and beat sleep anxiety.
How I Realized Thinking was Half my Sleep Problem
Insomnia’s tentacles didn’t just have me held prisoner at night. It consumed me during the day, too.
All I was thinking about was my insomnia because I was exhausted and ticked off that I wasn’t able to sleep. I dreaded going to bed at night because I knew it was going to be a losing battle to get any sleep.
I didn’t know it at the time, but I was suffering from sleep anxiety.
Around this time I bought a book called The Power of Speaking Positive by Joy Haney. It utterly changed the way I looked at life. It made me realize that the words I say or the thoughts I think to myself have power.
Now, this book isn’t about sleep, it’s about your attitude. But its message made me wonder, could I be making my insomnia worse because I’m constantly complaining about sleep to myself and other people?
At that point I figured what the heck. I was fed up with taking OTC sleep meds that made me feel horrible. I had already started working to improve my sleep naturally by taking magnesium and adopting a sleep routine. I might as well be adjusting my sleep attitude, too.
So I started replacing my negative sleep thoughts/words with positive sleep affirmations. Not gonna lie, it was tough at first. But eventually, little by little I started noticing a change in my sleep.
Video: My Journey to Sleeping Using Positive Thinking
So I can Overcome Sleep Anxiety with Positive Sleep Thoughts? Yeah, OK. 🙄
Stay with me now. I know you’re probably thinking this girl is nuts if she thinks me thinking warm fuzzy thoughts about sleep is going to make me have the best night’s sleep ever.
Before you dismiss the idea that what you think can affect your mind and body, consider young girls and their body image.
It’s not uncommon that a teenage girl thinks she’s fat when she’s not. It usually starts when someone planted a thought in her mind like “you’re fat” or “are you pregnant?” She gradually starts to obsess about her weight, to the point where she develops an eating disorder.
I know a good percentage of us women can look back at our early teen years and wonder how we ever thought our bodies were fat or ugly. I know I look at pictures of my 16-year-old self and wish I was still a size 6, but at the time all I saw when I looked in the mirror was a blob.
It’s all starts with repetitive negative thoughts, and over a period of time it morphs into a bigger problem. Whatever thoughts you feed grow, whether it’s anxiety about food or anxiety about sleep.
So we all know how it goes when you start having sleepless nights, you start to think along these lines:
- “Man, it’s 3 a.m. I’ve only got X amount of hours left to sleep”
- “I hate going to bed. All I do is toss and turn”
- “Well, I guess I’m not sleeping again tonight”
- “My insomnia is really ruining my health”
- “I never sleep at night”
And on and on. A seed’s been planted and you’re actually training yourself not to sleep. And because you’re not sleeping, you’re compounding your insomnia by stressing out about it.
How your Repetitive Negative Sleep Thoughts Create a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy
I beat sleep anxiety by positive thinking and taking a more natural approach to treating my insomnia but I’m not an anomaly. You can do it, too. This isn’t woo woo stuff I pulled out my rear.
Researchers are starting to study the connection between negative thinking and insomnia. They’re learning that dwelling on the fact you can’t sleep can make your insomnia worse.
One study from Oxford University shows that anxiety over not sleeping makes the brain focus on your insomnia and how that lack of sleep is impacting your health. Your mind then overestimates the lack of sleep, such as “I only got 2 hours of sleep last night.” As a result, the study found the participants developed anxiety about sleep loss, which then led to an actual loss of sleep.
Another study found in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine found that when participants thought repeatedly about what caused their daytime fatigue it reinforced their beliefs of poor sleep, which then led to anxiety about not sleeping. The study concluded by saying, “insomnia rumination (repetitive thoughts) was a predictor of insomnia severity.”
Basically the more negative thoughts you have about your sleep loss the more trouble you’ll have sleeping. And when you stress out about not sleeping, it causes more trouble sleeping…and on and on.
The only way to jump off the merry-go-round is to replace your negative sleep thoughts with positive ones so you can beat sleep anxiety for good.
But Do Positive Sleep Affirmations work for Sleep Anxiety and Insomnia?
Now, I’m not going to be unrealistic and tell you that just because you’re thinking everything’s unicorns and roses that you’re magically going to start sleeping normal again.
Changing your outlook about sleep from a negative one to a positive one is a process.
For most of us, insomnia is a mind game. The more we think about falling asleep, the more sleep feels like it’s just beyond our grasp.
We get caught in the vicious cycle of no sleep = stressing about not sleeping = no sleep that balloons out of control and makes our insomnia worse and creates sleep anxiety.
Those of us with insomnia have to work on our mindset first and foremost because that’s the biggest obstacle to us getting a good night’s sleep.
You’ve got to change your focus from “I’ve got insomnia” to “I can sleep like a boss!” In fact, I don’t even like to use the word insomniac when I describe myself because what I’m really doing is planting and perpetuating a negative sleep thought.
How Do I Start Thinking Positive about My Sleep?
I’m not going to say this part is a cakewalk. You’ve trained your brain to think negatively about sleep. Now we’re going to reprogram you to think positive, but your brain is going to kick and scream in the beginning until it gets the message. 🙂
First write down some positive sleep thoughts on paper so you’ll have them on hand when a negative thought pops into your mind. Your positive sleep affirmations can go something like this:
- “I may not have slept the whole night, but I did get some sleep.”
- “I’m looking forward to going to bed. I know it will be quiet and relaxing.”
- “I can improve the quality of my sleep by improving my sleep hygiene. I can do that!”
- “I’m going to go to bed on time tonight and I’m going to get some sleep.”
- “My sleep is awesome and I love it.”
- “Falling asleep is quick, easy and painless.”
I find it’s easier if I adopt a different positive sleep thought for each day. It helps me have one thing to focus on so I don’t get distracted. I used this sleep journal, which gives me a daily positive sleep thought, plus gives me room to write down my own.
How to Retrain your Brain to Sleep Using Positive Affirmations
Now that you have your list of positive sleep affirmations you’re ready to go to battle with your negative thoughts about sleep and ultimately beat sleep anxiety. It’s time to rewire that brain!
When you have a negative thought about sleep, stop, and then replace it with one of your positive sleep affirmations you wrote down. So say you were thinking, “I’m not going to get any sleep tonight because I never do” replace it with a positive sleep thought like “Falling asleep is quick, easy and painless.”
Do this exercise each and every time you have a negative sleep thought. And don’t just recite your positive sleep affirmations in your head either. Speak them out loud! Your brain retains information and stores it faster when it hears it audibly and often. Remember, your words have power!
You can do This!
You want to beat sleep anxiety?
You want to sleep amazing and wake up refreshed?
If I can go from sitting on my couch at 1am, crying because I don’t want to go to bed because I won’t sleep, being a royal witch during the day moaning about not sleeping, to someone who now gets a decent night’s sleep almost every night, then you can, too.
No, it’s not going to be easy. At some point, I guarantee you there’s going to be times when you think this positive thinking crap is just that, crap, and it’s not helping you sleep any better than when you first started.
But don’t stop creating a positive attitude towards sleep. Keep replacing those negative thoughts with positive sleep affirmations so you can beat sleep anxiety for good.
You can do it.
I believe in you.
You can sleep like a freakin’ boss!
Harvey AG. Oxford University, London. A cognitive model of insomnia. Behavior Research Therapy. 2002 Aug;40(8):869-93.
Carney CE; Harris AL; Falco A; Edinger JD. The relation between insomnia symptoms, mood, and rumination about insomnia symptoms. J Clin Sleep Med 2013;9(6):567-575.