How to Go to Bed Happy: 3 New Secrets from Neuroscience

Dave_sleepingIf you’re not getting a decent night’s sleep, it’ll be tough to be happy. Research from NutureShock shows that:

“sleep-deprived people fail to recall pleasant memories, yet recall gloomy memories just fine.”

No one wants to be gloomy all day. It’s nice to be happy and go to bed happy.

But how much will people pay for a moment of happiness?

In a study conducted by Dr. Hi Po Bobo Lau from the University of Hong Kong subjects were asked to assign a price tag between $2 and $200 on how much they’d be willing to spend to re-create a given feeling, happiness was one of them.

The results…

From: The Upside of Your Dark Side: Why Being Your Whole Self–Not Just Your “Good” Self–Drives Success and Fulfillment

$44.30 for calm tranquility,

$62.80 for excitement,

$79.06 for happiness,

$83.27 to avoid fear,

$92.80 to avoid sadness,

$99.81 to avoid embarrassment,

$106.26 to avoid regret

$113.55 for love

As you can see, a happy moment goes for about 80 bucks.

Now here’s a happy deal to consider. It costs nothing, takes little effort, and more importantly, it will boost your happiness before bed!

From: The Mindfulness Solution: Everyday Practices for Everyday Problems

Remarkably, in large-scale surveys, of people who tried this, most found that it significantly decreased depressive symptoms and increased positive moods for the next six months.

So what’s the happy deal?

Try a Happy Deal

Just before settling in for the night, write down three things that went well that day and what caused them to go well. Try this every night for a week. I’ve had several clients try this happy deal and they all said it worked. It worked for me too.

How does it work?

It Reduces Anxiety

According to Richard Wiseman, professor of psychology at the University of Hertfordshire and the bestselling author of many books including: Night School: Wake Up to the Power of Sleep, one of the biggest things that keeps people awake is anxiety about getting to bed.

How can we settle the nerves?

New neuroscience shows that a restless mind can be tamed by writing things down, ideally an hour before bed. Writing things down turns off rehearsal loops in the brain that keep replaying important to-do items, like a broken record. Until we attend to the important “to-dos”, the record keeps playing so that our minds won’t let us forget. Writing the “to-dos” down acknowledges the restless thoughts and stops the rehearsal loops. This settles the nerves and clears the mind.

OK, we wrote em down. The nerves are settled. Now it’s time to access the happy circuits.

Access the Happy Circuits

Professor Martin Seligman of the University of Pennsylvania, who developed the technique of writing down 3 good things, refers to it as 3 blessings. Over and over again, writing three things down has been shown to help people develop more optimism.

Not sold on 3 things? Try one.

One study showed the positive effects of writing down only ONE positive experience.

A group of 90 undergraduate students who were split into two groups. The first group wrote about an intensely positive experience each day for three consecutive days. The second group wrote about a control topic.Three months later, the students who wrote about positive experiences had better mood levels, fewer visits to the health center, and experienced fewer illnesses

Additionally people who notice positive stuff are more satisfied with life.

From: The 100 Simple Secrets of the Best Half of Life 

Those who said they regularly took notice of something beautiful were 12 percent more likely to say they were satisfied with their lives.

Not only does writing good stuff down and focusing on positives light up the networks of the brain that make us feel good, but it truly changes the brain.  Because our brains record what we do, the more we practice recording good, the more our brain becomes wired for positivity.

In her book Train Your Mind, Change Your Brain: How a New Science Reveals Our Extraordinary Potential to Transform Ourselves, Sharon Begley, a science columnist for The Wall Street Journal, writes

“neuroscientists had accumulated a compelling body of evidence that the brain is dynamic, remodeling itself continually in response to experience…the brain is the child of experience, undergoing changes in response to the life its owner leads.”

Begley also adds, “neuroplasticity is impossible without attention and mental effort.

So if we put in a little effort at night to write down good things before bed, our brain will begin to undergo positive changes. The more we do it, the more we change our brain to be wired for happiness.

(on Inspired Living Archive: For the 3 words to a happy approach to life, click here).

OK, we’ve got our happy deal, here’s how we Supersize it!

Supersize Your Happy Deal

Share your writings with someone who will validate your experiences.  Expressing thoughts and feelings about good stuff is healthy.  Getting validation helps too.


Validation is powerful and reinforces changes in your brain. It also helps you click with people. According to Robin Dreeke, author of It’s Not All About Me: The Top Ten Techniques for Building Quick Rapport with Anyone, validation is the #1 secret to clicking with people and when we feel close to others, life is more satisfying.

From: 100 Simple Secrets of Happy People 

Close relationships, more than personal satisfaction or one’s view of the world as a whole, are the most meaningful factors in happiness. If you feel close to other people, you are four times as likely to feel good about yourself than if you do not feel close to anyone.

We’ve got our happy deal and Supersized it! Now it’s time to wash it down with some tea.

Wash It Down

Tea with valerian can help you sleep. When I worked as a dietary supplement counselor I saw people taking valerian, an herb widely used as a sleep aid. Considered to be safe, one excellent study showed two thirds of the subjects who took valerian found it to be effective.

The best positive study of valerian for insomnia followed 121 people for 28 days.  In this double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, half of the participants took 600 mg of an alcohol-based valerian extract 1 hour before bedtime, while the other half took placebo. Valerian didn’t work right away. For the first couple of weeks, valerian and placebo were running neck and neck. However, by day 28, valerian pulled far ahead. Effectiveness was rated as good or very good by participant evaluation in 66% of the valerian group and in 61% by doctor evaluation, whereas in the placebo group, only 29% were so rated by participants and doctors.

Even though I’m not an insomniac, I tested out Sleepytime Tea, which has valerian. I tried if for a couple of weeks to see if I slept better. I did feel calmer when I went to sleep and slept pretty good. BUT, I did wake up to pee. My wife is not a fan of that because it wakes her up too. So I researched to find two tested and true valerian supplements for those who want the restful benefits of valerian, but not the extra fluid before bed.

The only two tested and true supplements I could find were…

Solgar Standardized Valerian Root Extract Vegetable Capsules, 60 Count

Gaia Herbs Valerian Root Liquid Phyto-Capsules, 60 Count

(on Inspired Living Archive: To find more tested and true supplements, click here.)

I’m getting tired now. Time for a wrap-up before going to bed happy.


  1. Try a Happy Deal – Write down 3 good things 1 hour before bed and why they were good – It reduces anxiety and taps the happiness circuits of the brain.
  1. Supersize Your Happy Deal – Share your 3 good things with someone who validates you. Validation makes relationships click, improves life satisfaction, cements happy brain circuitry and makes you feel good about yourself.
  1. Wash It Down – Research suggests Valerian tea and valerian root may help you relax before bed.

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About Dave Barnas, M.S., CES, NASM-CPT

Dave is the true health guy. He is the founder and owner of True Health Unlimited, LLC, a personal health and fitness company in Tolland, CT & Wellness Writers, a subscription wellness newsletter service that incorporates live & virtual wellness workshops for companies across New England. Dave earned both a Bachelor's (1998) and Master's Degree (2000) in Nutritional Science from the University of Connecticut, and also holds certifications as a National Strength and Conditioning Association Certified Personal Trainer, National Academy of Sports Medicine Certified Personal Trainer and Corrective Exercise Specialist, Aerobics and Fitness Association of America Group Instructor, and Nutrition Specialist. He's also the lead author for four published works. Dave has over 20 years of combined experience in nutrition counseling, dietary supplement advising, personal training, corrective exercise training, health coaching and public speaking. In addition, he's spent over 25 years studying spirituality, meditation, and personal growth strategies. Dave's clients are all ages: youth, college championship level athletes, folks in their retired years, and everywhere in between. He's worked with three of the nation's leading physicians as a dietary supplement advisor and been a guest lecturer at Harvard University, Yale University, UConn, St. Joseph College and various church groups, health clubs, and high schools. In 2013, he was invited to Whole Foods Market to share his Real Food Therapy Guide. And in 2015, Dave's funny "Snowga" (yoga in the snow) video caught the attention of The National Weather Channel, who aired it to shake off cabin fever and bring laughter. In 2016, Dave & Hollie (his wife) founded Wellness Writers and deliver evidence-based Wellness E-newsletters to spread a message of health and happiness to various businesses throughout the US. Dave currently serves as a personal trainer in Tolland as well as a wellness coach and writer for several businesses, gyms and wellness facilities throughout the US.

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