This ‘sleep killer’ can be fixed in just 15 minutes, says sleep psychologist

Cancel out this ‘sleep killer’ with these psychologist-recommended tricks

The number one sleep killer, sleep & wellness tips
(Image credit: Tim Samuel / Pexels)

Finding it hard to fall asleep at night? Or maybe you’re getting a bad night’s sleep because you’re continuously awoken from your slumber? If you said yes to these two questions, it could be because you’re dealing with the number one sleep killer, recently identified by a sleep psychologist.

According to sleep psychologist, Aric A. Prather, PhD in an article written for CNBC (opens in new tab), the number one sleep killer is rumination. In the article, Prather revealed that after years of research into sleep and cognitive behavioural therapy, rumination is the biggest problem that causes poor sleep and affects the ability to fall asleep at night.

But what is rumination and how can it be fixed? Keep reading to find out more. P.S. While rumination is regarded as the number one sleep killer, you can also fix your sleep set-up issues by investing in the best mattress (opens in new tab).

What is rumination and how does it affect sleep?

Rumination is where you engage in a repetitive and negative thought process that goes round and round your mind continuously without completion or end. Essentially, it’s an overwhelming pattern of worrying and stressing about things which can be difficult to stop.

While rumination can happen to anyone and at any time, it can be particularly distressing when you’re trying to get to sleep. This is because rather than relaxing, your mind is still firing which makes you stay awake longer and can even prolong mental health issues and impair your ability to process emotions, according to Healthline (opens in new tab).

Prather says that “rumination is a sleep blocker because it keeps your mind aroused, especially in bed, when it’s dark and quiet. Your attention is drawn back again and again to this thing that didn’t go well or to a regret.” He also says that while there’s no magic switch to stop or turn off rumination, it can be managed in just 15 minutes with 2 simple tricks that can be easily added into your daily routine.

Sleep tips

(Image credit: Kinga Cichewicz / Unsplash)

1. Schedule in time to worry during the day

When people ruminate, they tend to fixate on something they’re worried about that gradually repeats and gets worse as thoughts get more and more out of control. But to stop this happening before you sleep, Prather says that scheduling in “emotional worry” time during the day can put a stop to this at night.

“Set aside 15 minutes during the mid to late afternoon just for yourself. Make sure you don’t get distracted by anything or anyone else and once the timer starts, give yourself the freedom to worry about one topic at a time,” suggest Prather.

By thinking of worries as a to-do list, you’re ticking off topics that you feel anxious about and giving them a set amount of time to consider them so you don’t have to do it at an inconvenient time like before bed or when you’re busy. Prather recommends doing this 2-3 times a week until rumination at night starts to fade.

2. Practice ‘constructive worrying’

There’s no right or wrong way to worry but in an effort to keep your rumination to a minimum and to help you feel less stressed, Prather suggests ‘constructive worrying’. During your worry time, take a piece of paper and write down your problems and potential solutions to them.

“Come up with a short list of current issues you’re dealing with and focus in particular on what you’re likely to ruminate about. Under ‘Solutions’, come up with 1 or 2 steps you could take to tackle the issue. The goal is to chart out a plan for how to get started with actionable steps for tomorrow or the next few days.”

After you’ve done this, Prather says to fold the paper and put it next to your bed. By having your problems and solutions next to your bed, you’re “bearing witness to the fact you’ve already spent focused energy on these problems which can release your mind from puzzling over them at night.”

For more stress-tackling tips, try this rapid tapping technique (opens in new tab) or give these 5 stress-busting techniques (opens in new tab) a go next time you’re feeling anxious. 

Bethan Girdler-Maslen
Acting Wellness Editor & Deals Writer

As T3's resident Shopping Expert and Deals Writer, Beth covers deals, discount codes, how to save money and seasonal holidays, including Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Amazon Prime Day, Boxing Day and Easter sales. Alongside her primary focus of deals, Beth is currently Acting Wellness Editor, covering all things sleep, yoga, relaxation and general wellbeing.


Having always been passionate about writing, she’s written for websites, newspapers and magazines on a variety of topics, from jewellery and culture, to food and telecoms. You can find her work across numerous sites, including Wedding Ideas Magazine, Health & Wellbeing, The Bristol Post, Fashion & Style Directory and more. In her spare time, Beth enjoys running, reading, baking and attempting DIY craft projects that will probably end in disaster!