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How Gratitude Can Improve Your Sleep

by BetterSleep
Nov 19 • 4 min read

We’ve all experienced gratitude and can recognize it in ourselves. But what distinguishes gratitude from being thankful or having appreciation? Robert Emmons, a leading scientific expert on gratitude, defined it perfectly.

Emmons said that in one part, gratitude is the acknowledgment of all good things in the world or one’s life. The other part is the recognition that something else is the source of this goodness, whether it’s other people or a higher power.

Though gratitude is a hot topic, did you know that it doesn’t only affect your well-being but your ability to sleep soundly as well?

Does gratitude help with sleep?

Gratitude does more than uplift someone’s spirit, it produces a serenity that carries into bedtime. Scientists that have studied the effects of gratitude on sleep have found some illuminating results.

One study that included over 400 adults, forty percent with sleep disorders, found that quality of sleep was greatly improved by gratitude. Thoughts of thankfulness for positive things before sleep resulted in falling asleep more quickly and for a longer period of time.

The most comprehensive research conducted on gratitude, headed by Emmons, examined the healing effects of having gratitude across three studies. One study on subjects with neuromuscular diseases showed only one area of remarkable difference compared to the control group— sleep. The subjects practicing gratitude got a half hour more of slumber than the group that didn’t.

Finally, another study observed a group of women keeping a gratitude diary. It might not come as much of a surprise that the group doing gratitude exercises had elevated optimism, improved well-being, decreased blood pressure, and better sleep quality.

Six potted plants and cactuses with flowers

How to practice gratitude for better sleep

With several methods for practicing gratitude, it’s helpful to experiment with different exercises before sleep and observe what works best for you. The following four techniques can quickly be done in bed right before you fall asleep.

Daily gratitude check-in

As you lie in bed with eyes closed, ask yourself, “What am I grateful for today?” Slowly allow the answers to come to you. Repeat the question as many times as you want. As you ponder each answer, let the feelings of gratitude fill your body. If you prefer having guidance, this exercise is available on the BetterSleep app.

Gratitude breathing

While lying in bed with eyes close, breathe in gratitude and anything you’re grateful for. As you breathe out, release any unwanted feelings. Repeat. Inhale the good feelings of gratitude and exhale tension and negativity. Repeat until you drift off to sleep.

Fill up with gratitude

As you lie in bed, focus entirely on one thing you’re currently grateful for in your life. Think of as many details about this subject as you can. Continue to focus on it and notice the feelings of gratitude fill your body and mind. Observe what gratitude feels like in your body. Continue to focus on your source of gratitude and the feelings of well-being as you fall asleep.

Gratitude journal

Keep a notebook by your bed to be your gratitude journal. For the last 10 to 15 minutes before you sleep, write down everything you’re grateful for. It’s essential that this is the last thing you do before you lay down, so the joyous feelings of gratitude remain with you as you drift off to sleep.

As you integrate one or more of these exercises into your nightly routine, notice how much better you’re sleeping— yet another thing to be grateful for.

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