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Iris Goldsztajn

Updated: 11/07/2022

Repeating these positive statements before bed can help calm your mind so you can (finally) slip into slumber — here's how.

Sleep is absolutely essential for your mental and physical well-being, but scoring sufficient shut-eye to function at your best isn’t always easy. Whether you can’t seem to quiet your mind as you hit the hay or you wake up long before your alarm clock is set to sound, sleep affirmations could very well help you achieve that elusive restful state — naturally.

Here’s how.

What Are Affirmations?

Put simply, "affirmations are short, positive statements that you repeat daily to reduce focus and rumination on negative, stressful thoughts," says Chelsie Rohrscheib, PhD, neuroscientist and sleep specialist at Wesper.

Although "affirmation" and "mantra" are sometimes used interchangeably, there are a few differences to keep in mind. "A mantra is a word or sentence repeated in meditation to help one focus," says Manjit Devgun, meditation instructor at THE WELL New York and founder of the app, Manjit: Modern Mindfulness. "It tethers the mind to a focal point like an anchor instead of the mind wandering or engaging in rumination or to-do list.”

An affirmation “works in the same way," but it’s more of a statement and "doesn’t necessarily have to have spiritual roots like a mantra does," Devgun explains.

How Affirmations Can Help With Sleep

Can’t seem to catch any zzz’s? Stress and anxiety might be to blame. 

When you experience stress, your brain triggers a deluge of hormones as part of the fight-or-flight response (i.e. "sympathetic activity of the nervous system," per Rohrscheib). This cascade of chemicals causes a symphony of physiological changes (think: your heart races, breathing quickens, muscles tighten, body feels energized) — none of which are particularly conducive to sleep.

RELATED: The Stress-Hormone Connection

But that’s where affirmations come in: "Positive affirmations at bedtime help our brain shift our focus away from negative to positive thoughts, which reduces negative thought loops, can help quiet the mind and move us into a parasympathetic state faster," Rohrscheib says. "This allows the brain and body to relax enough to enter sleep."

Of course, there are many ways to calm the body and mind, so why are affirmations specifically such a great tool? "When we focus on an affirmation and its meaning, it changes our awareness from overthinking to how we might want to feel instead," Devgun says. "By engaging in the practice of what the emotion of the positive affirmation feels like in your body, you are able to calm the nervous system and induce sleep."

And if you’re not totally convinced yet, it’s worth noting that there’s a significant amount of research that shows that self-affirmation can help to rewire the brain to be more positive.

How to Use Affirmations for Sleep

Whether used as a one-off strategy after a particularly stressful day or as an integral part in your nightly routine, sleep affirmations can definitely help you get the rest you need.

Here's how: "Lay in bed, have a dark room with no technology disruptions and close your eyes while repeating your affirmation until you fall asleep," advises Teresa Bartlett, MD, senior medical officer at Sedgwick. As for when, where and how to incorporate said affirmations, Dr. Bartlett says that they are most effective when "repeated for at least 10 minutes at night," while you’re already in bed and ready to sleep. It doesn’t matter too much if you say them aloud or in your head.

If you're consistently struggling with sleep issues, put together a list of affirmations you can use every day and make it a priority to add them to your bedtime routine, suggests Rohrscheib. By maintaining a consistent routine of repeating these phrases before hopping into bed "will signal to your brain that it's time to sleep," she says.

"When we focus on an affirmation and its meaning, it changes our awareness from overthinking to how we might want to feel instead."

How to Find the Best Sleep Affirmation for You

Affirmations are very personal — what works for one person might not for you. "The best way to identify an affirmation that will help you is to assess your own personal need," says Dr. Bartlett. "For example, if you feel unworthy, you could use an affirmation like, 'I am worthy of love, respect and kindness.'"

It’s also important to be realistic with the affirmations you use and, although it might seem obvious, to not repeat a statement that’s the total opposite of what you actually believe.

"​​I always suggest an affirmation that feels more honest rather than reaching," Devgun says. "Otherwise the conscious mind will put up a barrier against the sentence,and it will cause more anxiousness and frustration than anything else."

"For example if you are feeling especially anxious and trying to repeat, 'I am calm,' you will feel frustrated and the prefrontal cortex of the brain will not buy into the affirmation because the feeling in your body is not in coherence with the statement," Devgun continues. Instead, try saying something like, "Even though I feel a little overwhelmed right now, I know what it's like to feel more even-keeled," and then recall a memory of when you were last relaxed as you repeat the affirmation, she suggests.

And don’t worry too much about what your affirmation looks like: "It doesn't always have to start with an 'I,' but, again, it should be a statement that resonates with you so you can repeat it comfortably and invoke the shift in thinking," Devgun adds.

5 Sleep Affirmations for a Restful Slumber

"I release troubling thoughts."

"Using breathwork and repeating 'I release [troubling thoughts] and let go' on the exhale, and breathing out twice as long, gives your body the physical signal that you are safe and sound and engages the parasympathetic branch of the nervous system, which is sleep-inducing," Devgun explains.

Alternatively, Dr. Bartlett suggests the affirmation, "I am still and calm," which may also help you let go of that day’s worries. These two statements are especially suited to overthinkers or those who are experiencing a lot of stress in their daily lives.

"I easily fall into a deep sleep."

If falling asleep (vs. staying asleep) is the sticking point for you, look no further. “Repeating this phrase over and over in your mind while taking slow, deep breaths enables you to lower your heart rate and breathing and bring calm to the mind and body to enable sleep," Dr. Bartlett explains.

RELATED: 3 Breathing Exercises for Restful Sleep​​

"I welcome peaceful dreams."

This is a great one if you who experience regular nightmares that impact how you feel when you wake up. That's because by repeating this statement "you set the stage for images that are peaceful and happy," Dr. Bartlett says. “Often people use this [affirmation] with imagery of their favorite quiet place that makes them feel safe.” Don’t have a location in mind? "Imagine what the perfect safe place would be for you," suggests Dr. Bartlett.

"I wake up feeling revived."

Sometimes you fall asleep easily and sleep through the night just fine but somehow wake up feeling groggy and exhausted. An affirmation like this one makes a great first port of call for feeling more rested in the morning. “The physiological reason for this is that if you hear something in your head repeatedly you will believe it. Just as [when] you have someone telling you negative comments, you believe those," Dr. Bartlett says.

"I am worthy of rest and healing."

If you struggle with low self-esteem, you may not feel worthy of self-care and self-love, which includes staying physically healthy and sleeping well. This affirmation could "help [you] believe that sleep is a healing process and [you] are deserving of health," explains Dr. Barlett. You may also be hard on yourself because you "can’t stop" overthinking, thereby affecting your ability to fall asleep. In this case, you could use the alternative, "Even though I’m overthinking, I love myself deeply and profoundly," suggests Devgun.

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