Annals of Behavioral Medicine

, Volume 46, Issue 3, pp 260–272 | Cite as

Using Mental Imagery to Deliver Self-Regulation Techniques to Improve Sleep Behaviors

Original Article



Poor sleep habits and insufficient sleep represent significant workplace health issues.


Applying self-regulation theory, we conducted a randomized, controlled trial testing the efficacy of mental imagery techniques promoting arousal reduction and implementation intentions to improve sleep behavior.


We randomly assigned 104 business employees to four imagery-based interventions: arousal reduction, implementation intentions, combined arousal reduction and implementation intentions, or control imagery. Participants practiced their techniques daily for 21 days. They completed online measures of sleep quality, behaviors, and self-efficacy at baseline and Day 21; and daily measures of sleep behaviors.


Participants using implementation intention imagery exhibited greater improvements in self-efficacy, sleep behaviors, sleep quality, and time to sleep relative to participants using arousal reduction and control imagery.


Implementation intention imagery can improve sleep behavior for daytime employees. Use of arousal reduction imagery was unsupported. Self-regulation imagery techniques show promise for improving sleep behaviors.


Sleep Self-regulation Implementation intentions Intervention Mental simulation 

Supplementary material

12160_2013_9503_MOESM1_ESM.docx (17 kb)
ESM 1(DOCX 17 kb)


  1. 1.
    Wheaton A, Liu Y, Perry G, Croft J. Effect of short sleep duration on daily activities—United States, 2005–2008. JAMA. 2011;305:1956-1957.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Kronholm E, Partonen T, Laatikainen T, et al. Trends in self-reported sleep duration and insomnia-related symptoms in Finland from 1972 to 2005: A comparative review and re-analysis of Finnish population samples. J Sleep Res. 2008;17:54-62.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Altena E, Van Der Werf YD, Strijers RLM, Van Someren EJW. Sleep loss affects vigilance: Effects of chronic insomnia and sleep therapy. J Sleep Res. 2008;17:335-343.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Niu SF, Chung MH, Chen CH, et al. The effect of shift rotation on employee cortisol profile, sleep quality, fatigue, and attention level: A systematic review. J Nurs Res. 2011;19:68-81.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Jansson-Frojmark M, Linton SJ. The role of psychological mechanisms to insomnia in its early phase: A focus on arousal, distress, and sleep-related beliefs. Psychol Health. 2008;23:691-705.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Loft MH, Cameron LD. Relationships between Sleep Priority, Work Demands, Pre-sleep Arousal and Sleep in Day-time Employees. Work Stress. In press.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Cameron LD, Chan CKY. Designing health communications: Harnessing the power of affect, imagery, and self-regulation. Soc Compass. 2008;2:262-282.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Carver CS, Scheier MF. On the Self-Regulation of Behaviour. New York: Cambridge University Press; 1998.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    Hagger MS. Sleep, self-regulation, self-control and health. Stress Heal. 2010;26:181-185.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Loft MH. Response to debate on the self-report habit index. Ann Behav Med. 2012;44:141.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Tang NKY, Harvey AG. Effects of cognitive arousal and physiological arousal on sleep perception. Sleep. 2004;27:69-78.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    Morin CM, Bootzin RR, Buysse DJ, et al. Psychological and behavioral treatment of insomnia: Update of the recent evidence (1998–2004). Sleep. 2006;29:1398-1414.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    Schwarzer R. Self-efficacy in the Adoption and Maintenance of Health Behaviors: Theoretical Approaches and a New Model. Self-efficacy: Thought control of action. Washington, DC: Hemisphere; 1992:217-243.Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Schwarzer R. Modeling health behavior change: How to predict and modify the adoption and maintenance of health behaviors. Appl Psychol Int Rev. 2008;57:1-29.Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Gollwitzer PM. Implementation intentions: Strong effects of simple plans. Am Psychol. 1999;54:493-503.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    Chan CKY, Cameron LD. Promoting physical activity with goal-oriented mental imagery: A randomized controlled trial. J Behav Med. 2012;35:347-363.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    Martin KA, Moritz SE, Hall CR. Imagery use in sport: A literature review and applied model. Sport Psychol. 1999;13:245-268.Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    Hagger MS, Lonsdale A, Chatzisarantis NL. A theory-based intervention to reduce alcohol drinking in excess of guideline limits among undergraduate students. Brit J Health Psych. 2012;17:18-43.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. 19.
    Roffe L, Schmidt K, Ernst E. A systematic review of guided imagery as an adjuvant cancer therapy. Psycho Oncol. 2005;14:607-617.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. 20.
    Chan C. Approach and avoidance motivations: Development of a new assessment tool and an intervention using a self-regulatory perspective. University of Auckland: 2008.Google Scholar
  21. 21.
    Taylor SE, Pham LB, Rivkin ID, Armor DA. Harnessing the imagination: Mental stimulation, self-regulation, and coping. Am Psychol. 1998;53:429-439.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. 22.
    Buysse DJ, Reynolds CF, Monk TH, Berman SR, Kupfer DJ. The Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index: A new instrument for psychiatric practice and research. Psychiatry Res. 1989;28:193-213.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. 23.
    Faul F, Erdfelder E, Lang AG, Buchner A. G*Power 3: A flexible statistical power analysis program for the social, behavioral, and biomedical sciences. Behav Res Methods. 2007;39:175-191.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. 24.
    Mastin DF, Bryson J, Corwyn R. Assessment of sleep hygiene using the Sleep Hygiene Index. J Behav Med. 2006;29:223-227.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. 25.
    Espie CA. Insomnia: Conceptual issues in the development, persistence, and treatment of sleep disorder in adults. Annu Rev Psychol. 2002;53:215-243.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. 26.
    Sheeran P, Webb TL, Gollwitzer PM. The interplay between goal intentions and implementation intentions. Pers Soc Psychol B. 2005;31:87-98.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. 27.
    Radloff LS. The CES-D Scale: A self-report depression scale for research in the general population. Appl Psych Meas. 1977;1:385-401.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. 28.
    Marteau TM, Bekker H. The development of a six-item short-form of the state scale of the Spielberger State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI). Br J Clin Psychol. 1992;31:301-306.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. 29.
    Cohen S, Kamarck T, Mermelstein R. A global measure of perceived stress. J Health Soc Behav. 1983;24:385-396.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. 30.
    White K, Ashton R, Law H. The measurement of imagery vividness: Effects of format and order on the Betts' Questionnaire Upon Mental Imagery. Can J Beh Sci. 1978;10:68-78.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. 31.
    Luszczynska A, Schwarzer R. Planning and self-efficacy in the adoption and maintenance of breast self-examination: A longitudinal study on self-regulatory cognitions. Psychol Health. 2003;18:93-108.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. 32.
    Brickell TA, Chatzisarantis NL. Using self-determination theory to examine the motivational correlates and predictive utility of spontaneous exercise implementation intentions. Psychol Sport Exerc. 2007;8:758-770.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. 33.
    Nicassio PM, Mendlowitz DR, Fussell JJ, Petras L. The phenomenology of the pre-sleep state: The development of the pre-sleep arousal scale. Behav Res Ther. 1985;23:263-271.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. 34.
    Gueorguieva R, Krystal JH. Move over ANOVA: Progress in analysing repeated-measures data and its reflection in papers published in the archives of general psychiatry. Arch Gen Psychiat. 2004;61:310-317.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. 35.
    Holland RW, Aarts H, Langendam D. Breaking and creating habits on the working floor: A field experiment on the power of implementation intentions. J Exp Soc Psychol. 2006;42:776-783.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. 36.
    Knauper B, McCollam A, Rosen-Brown A, et al. Fruitful plans: Adding targeted mental imagery to implementation intentions increases fruit consumption. Psychol Heal. 2011;26:601-617.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. 37.
    Knauper B, Pillay R, Lacaille J, McCollam A, Kelso E. Replacing craving imagery with alternative pleasant imagery reduces craving intensity. Appetite. 2011;57:173-178.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. 38.
    Knauper B, Roseman M, Johnson PJ, Krantz LH. Using mental imagery to enhance the effectiveness of implementation intentions. Curr Psychol J Diverse Perspect Diverse Psychol Issues. 2009;28:181-186.Google Scholar
  39. 39.
    Morin CM, Espie CA. Insomnia: A Clinical Guide to Assessment and Treatment. New York, NY: Kluwer/Plenum; 2003.Google Scholar
  40. 40.
    Cunningham JA, Hodgins DC, Toneatto T, Rai A, Cordingley J. Pilot study of a personalized feedback intervention for problem gamblers. Behav Ther. 2009;40:219-224.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. 41.
    Chambless DL, Hollon SD. Defining empirically supported therapies. J Consult Clin Psych. 1998;66:7-18.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. 42.
    Taylor SE, Pham LB. The effect of mental simulation on goal-directed performance. Imagin Cogn Personal. 1998;18:253-268.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. 43.
    Vallieres A, Hansivers, Bastien CH, Beaulieu-Bonneau S, Morin CM. Variability and predictability in sleep patterns of chronic insomniacs. J Sleep Res. 2005;14:447-453.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. 44.
    Ong JC, Shapiro SL, Manber R. Combining mindfulness meditation with cognitive-behavior therapy for insomnia: A treatment-development study. Behav Ther. 2008;39:171-182.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. 45.
    Vincent N, Lewycky S. Logging on for better sleep: RCT of the effectiveness of online treatment for insomnia. Sleep. 2009;32:807-815.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  46. 46.
    Ohayon MM, Reynolds CF. Epidemiological and clinical relevance of insomnia diagnosis algorithms according to the DSM-IV and the International Classification of Sleep Disorders (ICSD). Sleep. 2009;10:952-960.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© The Society of Behavioral Medicine 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Jeffrey Cheah School of Medicine and Health SciencesMonash UniversityBandar SunwayMalaysia
  2. 2.University of CaliforniaMercedUSA

Personalised recommendations