Sleep impacts just about every facet of life. From energy levels to work performance to mental health, getting enough good-quality sleep will increase your quality of life. But if your sleep is disrupted, you may find yourself feeling sluggish, depressed, or experiencing brain fog. Believe it or not, your thoughts can have a major impact on sleep quality!
1. Negative Thinking Patterns Can Keep You Awake
You probably already know that stress has a negative impact on sleep quality. But when you narrow down the types of stress with these effects, you stand a better chance of improving the quality of your own sleep.
One study conducted in 2016 found that something called “perseverance cognition” had a major impact on sleep quality. Perseverance cognition involves persistently thinking about or focusing on negative events in the past or future.
Unfortunately, plenty of people are familiar with this thought pattern. Many people’s thoughts tend to become more negative as the day goes on. But in many cases, doing something to stop negative thoughts and redirect your attention can help.
Try developing a relaxing bedtime ritual to distract you from ruminating. You might consider meditation, reading, or watching a funny TV show. You can also help quiet your mind by paying closer attention to your thoughts. Any time you focus on something negative, shift your focus to something else.
Of course, this isn’t to say that you should never think about difficult or negative things. However, it’s a good idea to avoid thinking about these things before bed, as they can undermine sleep quality.
2. Focusing On Work And Other Stressors Impact Sleep
For many, it’s next to impossible to disengage from work when the day ends. And in many cases, work and other stresses can play on your mind when you’re trying to drift off for the night.
Some studies have found that expecting a positive outcome (for a deadline at work, an exam at school, etc.) results in better sleep quality. Optimism doesn’t come easily for everyone, so there’s a relatively simple exercise you can try to get started.
Visualizing a positive outcome for a specific stressor may settle your mind before sleep. It also may help you experience deeper, more restful sleep.
3. Worrying About Sleep Quality Can Make It Harder To Sleep
Having more data is almost always a good thing. You might already be among the millions of people who use a sleep monitoring device to track their sleep time, phases, and overall quality.
Tracking your sleep is usually a good thing. It can help you identify existing issues with your sleep (like an imbalance in sleep phases, snoring, etc.). Some people aren’t even aware of issues with their sleep, so a tracker can help them discover and correct a range of issues. You can then discover the great sleep you didn’t even know you were missing!
However, if you’re overanalyzing sleep tracker data and become too concerned about sleeping well, that anxiety can often worsen the quality of your sleep. Sleep researchers have actually created the term “orthosomnia” to describe that phenomenon. When you’re too worried about getting the best-quality sleep you can, you might get something akin to performance anxiety before you go to bed at night!
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4. Contemplating Goals Can Distract You
Setting goals and working toward them is an important way to develop purpose in your life. That being said, the time to think about these goals isn’t as you’re getting ready to go to bed.
If you start focusing on goals that are important to you, your mind will, of course, become very engaged. As your mind actively contemplates the best way to achieve your dreams, your focus is pulled from getting to sleep. Just make sure you think about and plan for your goals earlier in the day!
Sometimes, making a conscious effort to redirect your thoughts is all it takes to improve the duration and quality of your sleep. But if you need a little extra help, cognitive behavioral therapy is a great way to gain mastery over your thoughts and start enjoying better sleep.