Change your Thinking: Improve your Sleep

Change your Thinking: Improve your Sleep

When you wake in the night, are you tempted to check to see what the time is? It’s dark, you’ve lost track of time as you slept, is it 1am? Is it 5am? Does curiosity get the better of you? Feeling the need to know …

You may have a clock at the side of your bed, or, your mobile phone may be sitting on your bedside unit. It’s a strange thing, that so many of us feel the need to know what the time is, rather than trust our ‘body clock’ to know when it’s time to sleep and time to wake.

My Experience

From past experience, I can say, curiosity got the better of me on many occasions while working in the corporate world. I couldn’t resist pressing the home button on my mobile phone, for it to light up and display the time, it’s 3:30am, my thoughts automatically thinking, my alarm is set for 6am, I need to get more sleep, I have a long day ahead and an important meeting with senior management.

My mind starts to calculate the time between now and when my alarm is due to sound. I’m still awake and before I know it, I check the time again and its 4:30am, I can feel my stress levels starting to increase. Instead of my brain activity reducing and being ready to sleep, it’s increasing and I’m becoming more alert. The more I try to force myself to sleep, the more awake I feel.

The Science

When this happens, you are essentially telling your brain to change to work mode, i.e. alertness. This change leads you further away from relaxation and sleep. This is called the Sleep Effort Paradox, which means, the more effort we apply to sleep, the less likely it is to occur.

Some Useful Techniques

These are a few of the techniques that have worked for me in the past, hopefully one, or more will be of help to you;

  • If you have an alarm clock beside your bed, turn it to face the wall and resist the temptation to check the time on your smartphone. By not checking the time, your brain is less likely to become more alert.
  • Exposure to blue and green light from your clock, phone, tablet or computer can make you feel more alert, so ensure these are out of sight. You may benefit from removing these devices from your bedroom completely, if practical to do so.
  • Don’t try to force yourself back to sleep, remember the ‘Sleep Effort Paradox, the more you try, the less likely you are to succeed. Instead bring your mind to a place of relaxation.
  • A good technique to help you to relax your mind and body is a ‘Progressive Muscle Relaxation.’ Gently work your way through the different muscle groups in your body, starting with your face, moving down the body until you reach the tips of your toes. Tense each muscle for five seconds and release. Please ensure you do not tense any muscles that may cause you pain, or discomfort.
  • Conscious, or mindful breathing, helps to focus your mind and your thoughts by gently inhaling and exhaling while counting to five on the in breath and then five on the out breath. This will help to slow down your brain waves and take you focus away from overthinking about sleep.


Remember, resist the urge to check the time if you wake in the night and trust your body clock to know when to sleep and when to wake. Avoid having electrical devices near you during the night, as these expose you to blue and green light and can make you feel more alert. Don’t try to force yourself back to sleep, the more you try, the less likely you are to succeed.

Find out More

To read more about the importance of healthy sleeping patterns, take a look at the subject on the Tips and Insights page on our website. In addition to this, we offer a Free, 30 minute, no obligation Discovery Call, so you can find out more about how we can help you achieve healthier sleeping habits.

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Author: Daniel O’Connor