TikTok doctor shares the sleep technique that solved his insomnia

A woman lies awake in bed at night because she has insomnia
(Image credit: Getty)

Many of us find it difficult to fall asleep at night. So if the stats on your sleep tracker are way less than rosy, one particular sleep technique going viral on TikTok could be all you need to fall asleep faster tonight. 

Dr Karan Raj is one of the most popular doctors on TikTok and he’s covered a lot of sleep techniques, hacks and hygiene tips since joining the social media platform. 

In one of his latest TikToks, Dr Raj recalls the simple method that helped him overcome insomnia as a junior doctor. It’s called paradoxical intention, and here’s his crash course in how it works: 


Weird Sleep Hack

♬ Night Trouble - Petit Biscuit

A simple sleep hack to help you fall asleep fast

With paradoxical intention you focus on the very thing you want to avoid. So in the case of sleeplessness, you focus on how you are not going to fall asleep. As Dr Raj explains, “If I tell you NOT to think about a polar bear... guess what you think of first? Works the same way!”

Studies have shown that paradoxical intention helps improve the sleep quality and duration in chronic insomniacs, with researchers believing that it derails anxious thoughts about sleep. In theory, you should then have an easier time falling asleep. 

As with any sleep technique, paradoxical intention won’t work for everyone, especially if you're dealing with chronic insomnia. You may also find it more effective when combined with other sleep methods such as mindful breathing, a body scan or a progressive muscle relaxation-based technique such as The Military Sleep Method

Want to try paradoxical intention for yourself? When talking about how not to fall asleep (using PI), sleep scientist Dr Sophie Bostock recommends the following:

The main thing is removing all pressure on yourself to sleep; simply relax and enjoy being in your bed, awake yet calm, before drifting off.

Other ways to sleep better tonight

Your bedroom has a big impact on how relaxed you feel in bed and how well you sleep. Aim to keep your bedroom dark and cool by closing the curtains and circulating fresh air (either leave a window open or use a fan if you enjoy white noise), and ditch tech an hour before bed - or at the very least switch it to night mode. These habits can become a part of your bedtime routine for better sleep.

Investing in the best mattress for your body and sleep style is a smart move when it comes to boosting your overall sleep quality, as the comfier and better supported you are, the higher your chances of falling asleep faster and sleeping through the night. 

The same goes for your bedding, so try to choose fabrics that are breathable so you don’t overheat and wake up kicking off the covers. Make sure you have the best pillow for your sleep style too, as the wrong one will throw your neck out of alignment, causing discomfort and stiffness in the night and when you wake up.

Outside noise keeping you awake? Then grab your sleep earplugs and listen to some ambient noise on a good sleep app as you practise paradoxical intention. Hopefully you’ll be asleep before you know it.

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Claire Davies
Sleep Editor, Certified Sleep Science Coach

Claire is a Sleep Editor and Certified Sleep Science Coach who covers all things related to slumber, and is the go-to person for getting great product recommendations for better sleep. As an expert mattress reviewer, Claire has tested memory foam and hybrid mattresses from a range of top-rated brands, and has extensive experience of testing bedding too. Claire regularly speaks to certified sleep specialists, such as chartered psychologists and doctors of sleep medicine, to stay on top of the research and techniques that can help you enjoy better quality sleep, and she speaks with industry specialists about the latest mattress trends and new releases. Before delving into the world of sleep, Claire was Health & Wellness Editor at Top Ten Reviews, and before that a Senior Content Editor at T3. Having suffered with insomnia for years, Claire knows how much of a difference a good night's sleep can make and is passionate about helping others to sleep better too.