You might be tired, but as soon as your head hits the pillow, your mind starts racing. What didn't you accomplish today that you need to do tomorrow? Is so-and-so upset about that thing you said? Did you answer that email? And that email? And then it spins and spins until you're left fretting about global climate change and how you, single-handedly, can stop it.
Whew. Anxiety and trouble sleeping go hand in hand. People who are at a high risk for insomnia are 10 and 20 times more likely to also have anxiety or depression, respectively, compared to those who don't have sleep woes, according to a 2019 study in the journal Frontiers in Neurology.
Sleep loss also changes connections within the brain that contribute to anxiety, per a November 2019 study in Nature Human Behavior. Good sleep, on the other hand, has anti-anxiety benefits, researchers say.
How Night Affirmations Can Help You Fall Asleep
You can change the storyline by using a positive nighttime affirmation. Affirmations have been shown to change neural connections in your brain to create a more positive self-view and build resiliency. At night, they may be even more powerful.
Here's some science behind why it works: "Priming your brain for positivity, especially right before bed, can help you decrease anxiety and sleep better," Elizabeth Lombardo, PhD, Author of Better Than Perfect: 7 Strategies to Crush Your Inner Critic and Create a Life You Love, tells LIVESTRONG.com. "When going from awake into a state of sleep, your brainwaves go into an alpha state. During this time, you are able to really tap into the subconscious. In fact, you are almost in a state of hypnosis when suggestions can be better absorbed," she says.
Pretty cool, huh?
If your mind spins on a hamster wheel before bed, practicing a short night affirmation routine can quiet negative and unhelpful thoughts.
A 5-Minute Night Affirmation Routine to Calm Anxiety Before Bed
There are a few ways you can practice positive affirmations — and the whole routine can take anywhere from one up to five minutes. It's up to you how long you want to spend doing it.
After particularly angst-filled days, you may want or need to spend more time in this exercise. On good days (anxiety is like a roller coaster), you might want a quick one-minute refresher to keep the positive vibes flowing.
Here are two ways to do it:
The Mantra Routine
Lombardo recommends the following:
- Get yourself ready for sleep. Do your before-bed hygiene thing and head into bed. Keep the lights on.
- Journal one to three affirmations. "I am strong." "I am good enough." "I am worthy." "I deserve good things." This is completely individual and the best options are those that resonate with you. Need assistance? Use a guided meditation or affirmation app, like ThinkUp.
- Turn the lights off and lay down in a comfortable position that you typically like to fall asleep or sleep in.
- Close your eyes. Repeat the statement or statements, like a mantra. Or, you can also "daydream" that these statements are true. For example, using the "I am confident" mantra, you would imagine what this looks like. You might interact with people with confidence or walk confidently into situations that normally make you nervous. If an intrusive thought pops into your head during this daydream, it's OK. Just watch it float on by.
- Repeat your mantra or daydream until you fall asleep.
The Gratitude Affirmation
This one is recommended by The Happiness Psychiatrist Sheenie Ambardar, MD.
"I find this simple bedtime exercise can quickly transform people's moods from anxiety to appreciation and can really help bring about a sense of calm and relaxation," Dr. Ambardar tells LIVESTRONG.com.
- Think about five things you're grateful for. They can be mundane (a great cup of coffee in the morning) to big (a second-round job interview at a new company) to personal (that one friend who always makes you laugh).
- In your head, affirm — aka repeat — those five things you just thought about.
- Repeat the two-step process for as long as feels good or is calming (or until you go to sleep).
Is This an Emergency?
- Frontiers in Neurology: “The Effect of Anxiety and Depression on Sleep Quality of Individuals With High Risk for Insomnia: A Population-Based Study”
- Nature Human Behavior: “Overanxious and underslept”
- Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience: “Self-affirmation activates brain systems associated with self-related processing and reward and is reinforced by future orientation”