“Don’t try to fall asleep,” she says. Instead, try not to fall asleep, and then watch sleep come to you. In psychology, this technique is known as paradoxical intention.
Researchers once asked 34 insomniacs to test it out for 14 nights. Half the participants were asked to use paradoxical intention while the other half were not. The study concluded that “participants allocated to paradoxical intention, relative to controls, showed a significant reduction in sleep effort and sleep performance anxiety.” Meaning, they fell asleep faster and with less stress.
Beyond this counterintuitive technique, Kennedy suggests, “if you’re having trouble sleeping, stop trying and distract yourself until your body is sleepy again. Try deep breathing, reading, coloring, Sudoku—anything that takes your mind away from the frustration of not sleeping.”
Quit looking at the clock
If you often wake up in the middle of the night, you know a digital clock can taunt you. When you see that it’s 4:30 a.m., you immediately start doing the mental math, stressing about how many hours you have left to catch some zzz’s. To sleep better, experts recommend turning the clock’s face away from view to curb the anxiety that keeps you awake.