A sleep affirmation is a technique to help to reduce stress and relax before sleep. Using an affirmation involves thinking about or writing down a word, sentence, or longer passage that reduces tension or reminds a person of their values and strengths.

Do Affirmations Work?

Studies have found that affirmations can help people eat a healthier diet, engage in more physical activity, experience higher self-esteem, and feel less anxious before medical procedures. Brain imaging research shows that while a person is mentally affirming themselves, the reward centers of the brain are active.

Affirmations work by helping people change their habits and behaviors. An affirmation may be more likely to work when the person using it actually believes the phrase to be true. Affirmations may backfire if the person repeating them does not think of them as true statements.

Since an affirmation is more likely to work if a person believes it is true, people might want to opt for sleep affirmations that are practical rather than aspirational. For example, repeating, “I always fall asleep quickly and easily” when a person knows they regularly struggle to fall asleep, might have the opposite effect and cause them to lose hope as they think of all the times they did not sleep well.

Positive Sleep Affirmations

There are many sleep affirmations to try that may promote better sleep over time. Research suggests affirmations can help people change their behaviors, so affirmations can be used strategically to help a person engage in behaviors that promote sleep, like deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, and other healthy sleep habits.

“Breathe” or “Relax”

Deep breathing, also called diaphragmatic breathing, is used to promote relaxation and help people sleep better. People may pair each breath during this practice with words, like “breathe” or “relax” to remind themselves to continue to breathe in deeply and to help their body relax.

There are a few simple steps to practicing deep breathing while incorporating an affirmation:

  1. Sit in a chair or lie down in comfortable clothing 
  2. Breathe in slowly and deeply through the nose, so the belly rises, but the chest does not 
  3. Focus on the chosen affirmation, like “breathe” or “relax”
  4. Alternatively, count each in-breath and focus on the word “out” during each exhale 
  5. Continue deep breathing for ten breaths 

“Relaxing My Muscles Helps Me Sleep”

Progressively tensing and relaxing different muscles throughout the body is a technique commonly used to help people sleep better. Mentally repeating this affirmation can act as a reminder to engage in this practice before bed. 

It may also be helpful to add an affirmation into progressive muscle relaxation: 

  1. Lie down or find a comfortable place to sit
  2. Start by contracting the face muscles for two seconds, then letting them relax 
  3. Slowly tense and release the muscles of the face several more times
  4. Next, move downward to the muscles of the jaw, repeating several times
  5. Progressively move down the body, taking time to tense and release each muscle group until reaching the toes 

Mentally repeat the word “relax” or another chosen affirmation each time a muscle is relaxed.

“I’m Grateful for So Much”

People who feel more gratitude tend to fall asleep faster and report better sleep quality. Thinking positive, grateful thoughts right before sleeping appears to play a role in improving their sleep. If a person is unsure of how to practice gratitude, they can begin by thinking about what they appreciate in their life or what happened during the day that they value.

Some people may prefer to keep a gratitude journal rather than simply think about what they are grateful for. Gratitude journaling before sleep has been found to boost people’s moods and improve sleep quality .

“I Can Relax Knowing I’m Prepared for Tomorrow”

Sometimes people struggle to fall asleep because they cannot stop worrying about the next day’s tasks. For that reason, writing a detailed to-do list before sleep may help people fall asleep faster. Once the next day’s to-do list is complete, this affirmation can be a reminder that a plan is in place and they do not need to worry or think further about the next day.

The more detailed the to-do list, the better, as people who write more have been found to fall asleep faster than those who write less. 

“As I Practice Healthy Habits, I’ll Fall Asleep Faster Over Time”

Mentally repeating this affirmation throughout the day may encourage a person to practice healthy habits for sleep. There are many healthy habits experts recommend to improve sleep:

  • Exercise regularly, but not in the two hours prior to sleep
  • Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day
  • Keep the bedroom dark or wear an eye mask
  • Keep the bedroom quiet or wear earplugs
  • Avoid caffeine in the afternoon and evening 
  • Avoid alcohol in the evening
  • Limit the use of digital devices in the evening
  • Try not to eat a late-night dinner or snacks

Regularly affirming the ability to practice these habits may help a person stay motivated and optimistic.

“Stay Awake”

This affirmation might sound counterintuitive, but it is backed by research. Called paradoxical intention, the strategy of trying to stay awake in order to fall asleep faster was first developed in the 1970s. Since then, multiple studies have suggested the technique actually works.

By telling themselves to stay awake, researchers suggest that a person removes the frustration that can accompany trying to fall asleep and the feeling of failure. Once people release these worries, they are better able to fall asleep .

“Don’t Think, Don’t Think, Don’t Think”

While it might sound unusual, a technique called the military sleep method involves engaging in muscle relaxation and deep breathing, followed by repeating the words “don’t think” for 10 seconds.

Some sources claim the U.S. Army developed this technique to help its members sleep on battlefields, while others claim the U.S. Navy developed it to help fighter pilots fall asleep at any time. It is unclear if the technique has been scientifically studied, though some claim it provides impressive results.

How to Create a Sleep Mantra

A mantra is a word or short phrase used to promote mindfulness and reduce stress as a person repeatedly turns their mind back to it. Not only is a mantra generally shorter than an affirmation, it also usually has a spiritual connotation or deeper meaning. 

The word “mantra” is a term from the Sanskrit language that means both “instrument of thought” and “sacred text.” While mantras are commonly used in many Eastern spiritual traditions, they have been used in most major religions for hundreds of years.

If you take part in a religious practice or spiritual tradition, experts advise choosing an existing mantra from your practice to use as a calming reminder. If you would rather not use a religious mantra, transcendental meditation is a non-religious practice with a long history of using mantras to calm a person. 

In transcendental meditation, people generally select a simple sound that does not have a meaning. Words that promote relaxation, like “calm,” or “peace,” may also be helpful mantras to repeat before bed.

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5 Sources

  1. Springer, A., Venkatakrishnan, A., Mohan, S., Nelson, L., Silva, M., & Pirolli, P. (2018). Leveraging self-affirmation to improve behavior change: A mobile health app experiment. JMIR mHealth and uHealth, 6(7), e157.

  2. Wood, A. M., Joseph, S., Lloyd, J., & Atkins, S. (2009). Gratitude influences sleep through the mechanism of pre-sleep cognitions. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 66(1), 43–48.

  3. Jackowska, M., Brown, J., Ronaldson, A., & Steptoe, A. (2016). The impact of a brief gratitude intervention on subjective well-being, biology and sleep. Journal of Health Psychology, 21(10), 2207–2217.

  4. Scullin, M. K., Krueger, M. L., Ballard, H. K., Pruett, N., & Bliwise, D. L. (2018). The effects of bedtime writing on difficulty falling asleep: A polysomnographic study comparing to-do lists and completed activity lists. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 147(1), 139–146.

  5. Jansson-Fröjmark, M., Alfonsson, S., Bohman, B., Rozental, A., & Norell-Clarke, A. (2022). Paradoxical intention for insomnia: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of Sleep Research, 31(2), e13464.


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