Skip to content

How To Use "Paradoxical Intention" To Fall Asleep, According To An Expert

Sarah Regan
mbg Spirituality & Relationships Writer By Sarah Regan
mbg Spirituality & Relationships Writer
Sarah Regan is a Spirituality & Relationships Writer, and a registered yoga instructor. She received her bachelor's in broadcasting and mass communication from SUNY Oswego, and lives in Buffalo, New York.
Woman lying in bed awake
Our editors have independently chosen the products listed on this page. If you purchase something mentioned in this article, we may earn a small commission.

Try as we might, we all have nights when we just can't seem to fall asleep. If you've meditated, turned on your essential oil diffuser, turned down the lights, and still can't doze off, you're in luck, because there's an easy—albeit surprising—hack that can serve as your "last resort" option for falling asleep.

Before we share that hack from National Health Service surgeon Karan Raj, allow us to explain why he says not to "try this powerful sleep hack unless everything has failed."

First, you need to address your sleep hygiene.

Before you try out Raj's sleep hack (which has amassed more than 1 million views on TikTok), you need to consider how your sleep hygiene could be affecting your ability to fall asleep quickly. There are plenty of "better" ways to optimize your sleep, he explains in a comment about why this hack should be a last resort. "This is endgame stuff," he adds.

As for some of those optimization strategies: Are you going to bed and waking up at the same time every day? Avoiding caffeine, alcohol, and large meals before bed? Getting enough exercise to tire out your body so it's ready to rest?

sleep support+

sleep support+

The deep and restorative sleep you've always dreamt about*

★ ★ ★ ★ ★
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
(295)
sleep support+

There are many ways to regulate your lifestyle, and sleep schedule, so you can fall asleep more easily. One science-backed way is to take a sleep-supporting supplement like mindbodygreen's sleep support+ to calm the overactive mind and promote relaxation.* mbg's melatonin-free supplement contains magnesium bisglycinate, jujube, and PharmaGABA® to help you fall asleep faster, stay asleep longer, and wake up feeling rejuvenated.*

Check out our complete guide for what to do if you can't fall asleep, and if all else fails—then you can lean on Raj's advice, as described below.

Advertisement
This ad is displayed using third party content and we do not control its accessibility features.

An expert's last resort for when you can't sleep.

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.

The takeaway.

No one likes to lie awake restlessly when they need to get their beauty sleep. If it's a frequent problem for you, make sure your sleep hygiene is in order: bedroom temperature, smart supplementation, the right pillow, and more can all do the trick. And if all else fails, give Raj's hack a try.

sleep support+
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
(295)
sleep support+

sleep support+

The deep and restorative sleep you've always dreamt about*

sleep support+

sleep support+

The deep and restorative sleep you've always dreamt about*

★ ★ ★ ★ ★
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
(295)
sleep support+

More On This Topic

More Health

Popular Stories

Advertisement
This ad is displayed using third party content and we do not control its accessibility features.

Latest Articles

Latest Articles
sleep support+

Your article and new folder have been saved!