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Self-help program

6. Articulatory suppression (SOS)

When you have insomnia, falling asleep or getting back to sleep if you wake up in the night is often made more difficult by racing thoughts and a restless mind.

Articulatory suppression is a technique designed to stop overthinking and intrusive thoughts in bed.

  • Choose a word that has no emotional significance to you, such as the word “the”.
  • As soon as you wake up in the night or notice that your mind is racing, switch your thoughts to your chosen word.
  • Keep your eyes closed and repeat the word in your head at intervals of approximately two seconds.
  • Keep doing this for between five and ten minutes.

This technique stops unwanted thoughts from intruding by focusing all of your energy on your chosen word.

Example of using articulatory suppression

You are suffering from insomnia and have discovered the articulatory suppression technique. You have chosen the word “the” and decided to start repeating that word over and over in your head if you wake up in the night.

As soon as you wake up, you start repeating the word “the” silently in your head, focusing on nothing else. You keep repeating the word for as long as you are awake. With practice, you will notice that you automatically start to repeat the word “the” as soon as you wake up in the night. It makes you fall back asleep faster, as there is no room for intrusive thoughts in your head.