The key to getting a good night’s sleep? Don’t think about pink elephants. Nope, this isn't a promo for the new Dumbo movie. It’s a trick that might end your insomnia once and for all. It turns out the secret to a getting a solid stretch of shut-eye may lie in reverse psychology.
It’s called Paradoxical Intention, and, according to psychologist Arash Emamzadeh, all you need to do to fall asleep is try as hard as you can to stay awake.
“The way it works is that instead of anxiously trying to force yourself to sleep (‘I can get at least six hours...five hours...if I sleep now I can get at least four hours’), you try to stay awake as long as you can,” Emamzadeh writes in Psychology Today. “Paradoxical intention does not oppose the anxious intention (of trying to force yourself to sleep), but guides it in the opposite direction (toward forcing yourself to stay awake).”
Skeptical? Think back to when you would try to stay up late to cram for an exam or finish a paper during high school, or of how you felt attempting to keep your eyes open during a way-too-late-night conversation with your college roommate. It probably felt like sleep was closing in on you and you were powerless to fight it off. “You were forcing yourself to stay awake,” writes Emamzadeh, “but eventually allowed sleep to happen.”
So the next time your thoughts race after midnight, don’t struggle so hard to go to sleep. Instead, lie in bed with every intention of staying up. “But mean it,” cautions Emamzadeh. “You cannot fake it, or the body will know. Then, if or when you really sense sleep coming over, you can allow yourself to fall asleep.”
Now that is absolutely brillia…ghgmgh. What? We’re up. We swear.