Do you struggle to get a good’s night sleep? Does your mind race as you rehearse conversations, invent new products, or stress over the things you didn’t accomplish?
Researchers have confirmed what the Bible has taught for millennia: gratitude helps you rest better. In other words,
“Count your blessings and not sheep as you go to sleep.”Phil Mershon
5 ways gratitude can help you sleep better
Okay, all dad jokes aside, gratitude plays a crucial role in our ability to sleep. Let’s explore 5 ways gratitude can help you snooze better. Ralph Waldo Emerson probably said it better than I ever will in this poem:
“For each new morning with its light,Ralph Waldo Emerson
For rest and shelter of the night,
for health and food, for love and friends,
For everything Thy goodness sends.”
#1: Count your blessings as you go to sleep
Robert Emmons is a leading researcher on gratitude. He cites a research project that studies the connection between gratitude and sleep. Participants were asked to write down thankful thoughts right before bed. As a result of this simple practice, participants got 30 minutes more sleep each night. So that leaves us wondering what to be thankful for.
Psalm 103:2 starts our, “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits.” For example, the psalmist reminds us to thank God for forgiveness, healing, redemption, love, provision, and strength. That’s a pretty good list to start with as you go to bed each night. I find using these words will often prompt me to remember specific reasons I have to be thankful. For instance, mine might look like this today:
- Forgiveness – Thank you for forgiving me for the boneheaded way I treated Audrey today.
- Healing – Thank you for the ways you’re healing my body and my children.
- Redemption – Thank you for not holding my many sins against me–especially the ways I try to manipulate circumstances for my benefit.
- Love – Thank you for loving me enough to confront my sins and bring the right words of encouragement at just the right time.
- Provision – Thank you for sending an unexpected insurance payout at just the right time.
- Strength – Thank you for the strength to be able to workout today and the progress I’m making.
#2: Sleep helps us remember who’s in charge
One of the reasons many people don’t rest well is they wrongly think they alone control their own destiny. But our faith in God reminds us that God alone controls all things and he gives us very small things to manage.
There are definitely cases where people avoid responsibility through sleep. But for those of us who feel TOO responsible, rest renews us as we rely on God’s absolute sovereignty.
“It is useless for you to work so hardPsalm 127:2
from early morning until late at night,
anxiously working for food to eat;
for God gives rest to his loved ones.”
#3: Sleep leads to more energy, more creativity, and higher productivity
We’re a sleep-deprived nation and the results cost businesses and families countless hours and dollars in sick time and mistakes. So Michael Hyatt recommends that we sleep smarter so that we’ll get better results. And JJ Virgin sees sleep as the missing ingredient in our path toward greater impact.
#4: Gratitude produces deeper rest
The University of Manchester (UK) conducted a study to see how gratitude affects our sleep time. As a result, they concluded:
“Gratitude predicted greater subjective sleep quality and sleep duration, and less sleep latency and daytime dysfunction. The relationship between gratitude and each of the sleep variables was mediated by more positive pre-sleep cognitions and less negative pre-sleep cognitions.”Alex M Wood, Stephen Joseph, Joanna Lloyd, Samuel Atkins
Pre-sleep cognitions is a scientific way of saying that we will think and dream about the last things we focused on while we’re awake. For instance, if you watch horror movies before bedtime, you’re far more likely to have nightmares. When you pay your bills right before bed and this stresses you, you’re way more likely to be anxious while you rest.
If, however, you write for 5-15 minutes in your gratitude journal, you will dwell positively on those things as you sleep.
#5: Thankfulness helps us trust
A baby born into a nurturing family sleeps peacefully and without any concern. Likewise, believers can rest knowing that God sees everything. Psalm 121 reminds us that God does not slumber or sleep. As a result, we can trust him and sleep deeply.
If you doubt this, remember how Jesus slept deeply in the back of the boat while it rocked in the midst of a storm? He knew who controlled the storm.
Likewise, David reflects that God is the Great Shepherd who allows his people to rest even in the presence of their enemies:
“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.Psalm 23:1-2
He makes me lie down in green pastures.”
Are you ready to up your challenge? Several of the research studies suggest that in as little as 3 weeks you can start to see benefits in your sleep patterns. For the next three weeks, make it your aim to write in your gratitude journal for at least 5 minutes as the last thing you do before you turn out the lights. Track your sleep during that time. If you can, monitor the duration and depth of your sleep. How do you feel the next morning?
Father, I thank you for the gift of sleep. I praise you as the Great Shepherd who guards me by day and night and for protecting me from the evil one and all forces that seek to destroy me. Help me to grow in gratitude each and every night and day. Teach me to love you so that I might delight in your saving grace. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.