Medically reviewed by
Dacelin St Martin, MD
Triple board-certified in Sleep Medicine,
Internal Medicine, and Pediatrics.
You’ve had a busy day, and you’re tired. You can’t wait to fall into bed, but when the time comes, and you turn off the light, and your mind starts racing.
Do you regularly find yourself lying in bed, unable to sleep because your mind won’t stop racing, filling your mind with negative scenarios?
It’s a common situation and typically consists of rumination, worrying about things that have happened during the day or what is to come the following day, thinking back of ‘what if’ and ‘maybe,’ or irrational thought patterns you can’t seem to stop.
Why Does Negativity Intensify at Night?
Nighttime is the perfect setting for negative thoughts to float to the forefront of your mind.
A considerable number of people across the world are living with anxiety, depression, stress, and insomnia. In these situations, negativity has a stronghold over their thoughts.
The issue is, when you’re not getting enough sleep because of those negative thoughts, you’re intensifying your negative thoughts. It’s one giant cycle that perpetuates itself.
One study that was conducted on 100 students discovered that having less sleep over time contributed to the number of negative thoughts those students experienced regularly.
So, the less sleep you have, the more negative you become, and the more negative you become, the harder it is to sleep. Breaking the cycle is vital for consistent and restorative sleep.
How to Give Negative Thoughts the Boot
We all have daily worries, we all ruminate occasionally, and we allow ourselves to think irrationally from time to time. The key is to control our negative thoughts so that they don’t sabotage our sleep. Here are some useful tips to try if you’re regularly finding that negative thoughts affect your sleeping pattern.
1. Keep a Notebook by Your Bed
If you find that you often wake up worrying about something or remembering what you need to do, it’s a good idea to scribble it down. By doing that, you create a safety net; you know you’re not going to forget to address the issue, and it helps put your mind at ease.
2. Try Deep Relaxation Before Bed
To nod off to sleep, you need a quiet mind. Your mind is not calm if it’s continually thinking negative thoughts. To turn off that negativity switch, try some guided meditation before bed.
You can download a recording, or check out the considerable number of sleep apps available on your phone. By doing this, you’re focusing on something other than your thoughts, therefore allowing yourself to nod off more easily.
3. Try Articulatory Suppression
This particular method sounds complicated, but it’s not, and it’s probably something you’ve tried in the past to some degree.
Articulatory suppression is thinking of a word or a thing and repeating it over and over again. It can be anything, like a random word or even a sound.
The only rule is that you choose something you have no attachment to emotionally to prevent thoughts and feelings from brewing up to the surface.
4. Positive Affirmations Before Bed
Some people find positive affirmations beneficial throughout the day, but there’s no reason why you can’t try this before bed.
Many studies have shown that using self-affirmation or positive affirmations can help you develop an overall positive mindset, which will help with negative thoughts before sleep. All you need to do is find one that suits your situation.
It can be any affirmation you choose; however, you need to say it several times before you sleep and make sure that you focus on meaning the words. Repetition is vital with affirmations.
5. Distract Yourself With Images
Focusing on a positive image can help you manage negative thoughts and relax your mind enough to sleep. As with articulatory suppression, it needs to be something that doesn’t have an emotional connection to you, but it also needs to be joyful and positive.
The key here is to distract yourself. So, how about a beautiful beach you imagine yourself exploring? A mountain scene? Again, anything you like, but it has to be relaxing and calming.
If you’re regularly struggling with remuneration, worry, or general negativity is affecting your sleep, try the above tips and focus on the positives over the negatives.
There are programs accessible online to help you overcome insomnia by adjusting your thought processes and behavior, including how to manage negative thoughts.
For sure, overcoming negative thoughts can be challenging, but with some effort, you should be able to get your sleep back on track. If you find that you’re unable to get your sleep back on track after trying these tips, talk to your doctor.
1. NHS website. (2014, Dec 8). Lack of sleep linked to negative thinking. NHS. https://www.nhs.uk/news/mental-health/lack-of-sleep-linked-to-negative-thinking/
2. Mulla, R (2020, April 16) Overthinking: Can’t sleep? How thought blocking can help. Sleepstation-Public. https://www.sleepstation.org.uk/articles/sleep-tips/thought-blocking/#fnref-1
3. Cascio, C. N., O’Donnell, M. B., Tinney, F. J., Lieberman, M. D., Taylor, S. E., Strecher, V. J., & Falk, E. B. (2016). Self-affirmation activates brain systems associated with self-related processing and reward and is reinforced by future orientation. Social cognitive and affective neuroscience, 11(4), 621–629. https://doi.org/10.1093/scan/nsv136