When you’re tossing and turning and can’t doze off, here’s the key: Stop trying to fall asleep, Raj says in the TikTok video. “You can fall asleep by trying not to fall asleep,” the surgeon explains. “This trick is known as ‘paradoxical intention,'” he says, adding, “If I ask you not to think about a polar bear, the first thing you do is think about a polar bear—your body works along the same principles.”
By not forcing yourself to sleep, you take your mind away from ruminating on the fact that you can’t sleep. From there, he says, you want to actually lie awake with your eyes open and tell yourself you’re going to stay awake. “Your body will do the opposite, and eventually you’ll feel tired and drift off to sleep,” Raj says.
And this technique tracks with tips we’ve heard from other sleep experts, like behavioral sleep doctor Shelby Harris, PsyD, DBSM. She previously explained to mbg that if you’ve woken up in the middle of the night and can’t fall back asleep, for example, she recommends getting out of bed, sitting somewhere, and doing something calming or relaxing (just don’t look at any screens!) rather than fighting yourself back into slumber.
The benefit of actually getting out of bed, she notes, is so you don’t start to associate your bed with being awake. So, all that to say, give Raj’s trick a try, and if you don’t feel it working, relocate to a cozy couch or chair until you’re ready to drift back into it.