Understanding the difference between stressful and relaxing pre-sleep thoughts

What we think about in bed often plays an important role in how quickly we fall asleep. By becoming more aware of your pre-sleep thoughts – of what you are thinking about while in bed – you can help reduce the time needed before sleep onset occurs.

Many studies have shown good sleepers are more likely to think about “nothing in particular” once in bed, which is conducive to falling asleep faster. In other words, faster sleep onset is associated with mentally letting the problems of the day go, and simply allowing your thoughts to drift pleasantly without conscious control or direction.

On the other hand, insomniacs tend to have more worrisome pre-sleep thoughts, especially about the idea of not sleeping. Instead of letting go, insomniacs tend to have more occupying thoughts of doing things, solving problems, replaying their day, or focusing on noises in their bedroom. Something as seemingly harmless as repeatedly playing a song or tune in one’s mind can be sufficiently occupying to disrupt sleep. A racing mind can make falling asleep much more difficult, but so can stressful or occupying thoughts of any kind.

Distraction is one simple way to help counter a racing mind or occupying thoughts once in bed. In its simplest form, this can be something like the age-old method of counting sheep. Studies have found, however, that constructing more elaborate mental imagery of relaxing waterfalls or pleasant beach scenes might be more effective at helping you fall asleep faster.

The combined methods in the Sleep Training System will help you move naturally toward “thinking about nothing” once in bed, but it’s also helpful to have some awareness of your mental state before sleep onset. Begin to recognize when you experience this relaxing and pleasant mental state that precedes sleep. By coming back to this place in your mind once in bed, by letting your thoughts drift to “nothing in particular”, you can help yourself fall asleep faster and counter insomnia.

Explore posts in the same categories: Health, Insomnia, sleep

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One Comment on “Understanding the difference between stressful and relaxing pre-sleep thoughts”


  1. Thanks for your information, that confirm my thoughts. I think what we think about in bed often affect our sleep quality. Meditation helps you to relax your brain, and quickly go to a ‘rest mode’. But if we keep checking on our phones, reading through updates on social media, maybe that would cause insomnia in the future ?


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