Sleeping for gratitude


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The following post is offered by Spirited Life wellness advocate Lisa MacKenzie.

Remember when sleep came easily? Maybe you remember the smell of the cool sheets fresh off the clothesline and the night sounds through the open window near your bed, a soft breeze lulling you into a peaceful rest or the soft breathing of your cat at the foot of the bed.


Sometimes it’s not that easy. Sometimes we find ourselves falling into bed feeling stressed, overworked and over-stimulated and just not able to settle down. Poor sleep patterns catch up with us and can affect body, mind and spirit. New research points to the fact that poor sleep can also impact our relationships with people around us.

An interesting study out of the University of California at Berkeley contends that good sleep fosters psychological well-being and even gratitude. “In the past, research has shown that gratitude promotes good sleep, but our research looks at the link in the other direction and, to our knowledge, is the first to show that everyday experiences of poor sleep are negatively associated with gratitude toward others — an important emotion that helps form and maintain close social bonds,” says Amie Gordon, co-author of the study. She goes on to say that “Poor sleep is not just experienced in isolation. Instead, it influences our interactions with others, such as our ability to be grateful, a vital social emotion.”

WOne resource that promotes both gratitude and a peaceful night’s sleep is the Three Blessings exercise from Martin Seligman, author of Authentic Happiness. Every night for the next week, right before you go to bed, write down three things that went really well during the day. These things can be small and ordinary in importance. As your list grows over the course of the week, think about why these good things happened, and you may find that you’ll rest better.

The following tips from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine might also help you get the sleep you need:

  1. Don’t go to bed unless you are sleepy. If you are not sleepy at bedtime, then do something else. Read a book, listen to soft music or browse through a magazine. Find something relaxing, but not stimulating, to take your mind off of worries about sleep. This will relax your body and distract your mind.
  2. If you are not asleep after 20 minutes, then get out of the bed. Find something else to do that will make you feel relaxed. If you can, do this in another room. Your bedroom should be where you go to sleep. It is not a place to go when you are bored. Once you feel sleepy again, go back to bed.
  3. Begin rituals that help you relax each night before bed. This can include such things as a warm bath, light snack or a few minutes of reading.
  4. Get up at the same time every morning. Do this even on weekends and holidays.
  5. Get a full night’s sleep on a regular basis. Get enough sleep so that you feel well-rested nearly every day.
  6. Avoid taking naps if you can. If you must take a nap, try to keep it short (less than one hour). Never take a nap after 3 p.m.
  7. Keep a regular schedule. Regular times for meals, medications, chores, and other activities help keep the inner body clock running smoothly.
  8. Don’t read, write, eat, watch TV, talk on the phone, or play cards in bed.
  9. Do not have any caffeine after lunch.
  10. Do not have a beer, a glass of wine, or any other alcohol within six hours of your bedtime.
  11. Do not have a cigarette or any other source of nicotine before bedtime.
  12. Do not go to bed hungry, but don’t eat a big meal near bedtime either.
  13. Avoid any tough exercise within six hours of your bedtime. You should exercise on a regular basis, but do it earlier in the day.
  14. Avoid sleeping pills, or use them cautiously. Most doctors do not prescribe sleeping pills for periods of more than three weeks. Do not drink alcohol while taking sleeping pills.
  15. Try to get rid of or deal with things that make you worry.  If you are unable to do this, then find a time during the day to get all of your worries out of your system. Your bed is a place to rest, not a place to worry.
  16. Make your bedroom quiet, dark, and a little bit cool. An easy way to remember this: it should remind you of a cave.

Sleep well!

–Lisa MacKenzie

Images used with permission.



This entry was posted in In the News, Physical Health and tagged , , , by Kate Rugani. Bookmark the permalink.

About Kate Rugani

Kate is communications director for the Clergy Health Initiative. She holds an undergraduate degree in English and a master’s in integrated marketing communications and public relations. She has a background in both corporate and nonprofit communications and loves spreading the word about how organizations are helping real people. She enjoys hiking, trying new recipes, and hanging out with her husband and three kids.

2 thoughts on “Sleeping for gratitude

  1. It has always amazed me how hard it is for me to “turn off” my brain when I go to bed. My husband ends up falling asleep in seconds while I lie awake for at least half an hour. It looks like I may need to have some major overhaul to the way I prepare for sleep.

  2. Practicing centering prayer with focus on deep breaths nightly puts me out. Unless I have many distractions to filter out in the prayer process, I are rarely awake after 30 to 40 deep breaths. lsm

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