The science behind gratitude: sleep

“Count your blessings (instead of sheep)”- Irving Berlin

As part of the 30 day gratitude challenge I have been doing this month I have been reading up on the positive effects of gratitude, starting with the effects on sleep.

Research suggests that writing down the things we are grateful for before going to bed helps us to fall asleep faster, because it lessens our tendency to ponder and get hung up on negative experiences/ thoughts etc. A study by Wood et al. also linked gratitude to better sleep quality and duration.

On the other side we need good sleep to able to express gratitude (especially towards others). Amie Gordon from Berkeley looked at the effects of poor sleep quality and the negative effects it has on gratitude towards others. Her studies showed that less gratitude expressed is associated with poor sleep, as well as more fighting in relationships with less conflict resolution after a bad night’s sleep. She proposes a bidirectional model in which sleep and social interactions affect each other. Maranges et al. and Strawbridge et al. showed people tend to be less satisfied with their relationships if either they or their partners sleep poorly, and that if one spouse slept badly it affected the health and wellbeing of the other.

So not only does how we sleep affect the amount of gratitude we feel and express, gratitude in turn can affect how we sleep! So taking a few moments before bed to think about what we are grateful for today, and it can be small simple things like coffee in the morning, might just have a bigger effect than we think!

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