TikTok’s ‘Contradictory Intentions’ Sleep Hack Is Actually Genius

Even though I have plenty of sleep hacks in my back pocket, like a white noise machine and lavender-scented pillow spray, I still find myself constantly awake. I blame caffeine and stress, and the panic that sets in when I realize morning is approaching.

If you've also had trouble falling or staying asleep, you know what it's like when midnight rolls around and your mind starts racing and you still don't doze off. Suddenly, all you can think about is how tired you will be in the morning and how a lack of sleep will ruin your entire day.

That concern seems legitimate for now, but it might actually be what's keeping you awake, at least according to a sleep tip called "Paradox Intention" circulating on TikTok. This suggests that trying to force yourself to sleep is counterproductive as it will further increase your stress.

When this sleep hack came into my five-year plan, it felt like an aha moment. The paradoxical intention of tricking your brain into falling asleep by accepting the fact that you are awake seems pretty genius to me. Here's everything you need to know about this swoon-worthy trick and what it's like to try it.

stay awake to fall asleep

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Dr. Shelby Harris, director of sleep health at Sleepopolis, said this conflicting intent may be a trend on TikTok, but it's also one of many treatments used in treating sleep disorders.

The idea is to accept the fact that you're awake without overthinking, panicking, or stressing. It works a bit like the next day: if you're trying to stay awake, that's when your brain wants to sleep.

"The goal of this technology is to reduce the performance anxiety and stress that comes from forcing yourself to fall asleep," Harris tells Bustle. "By disrupting your anxious thoughts, contradictory intentions may help some people relax and fall asleep more easily, especially for those who overthink or whose sleep problems are rooted in psychological factors such as stress or anxiety."

Once you tell yourself that you can wake up at 1 a.m., you may feel relaxed and morning will be here before you know it.

This tip is definitely worth trying and can work wonders. However, it may not be as effective if you have chronic sleep problems, according to Harris.

trick your brain

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Here, Dr. Harris explains how to try this viral sleep technique.

- Set up your bedroom for a good night's sleep: lights off, cool temperatures, white noise, and more.

- Go to bed and relax.

- Try to divert your thoughts and don't force yourself to fall asleep.

- Accept the idea that it's okay to be sober.

- Avoid checking your phone or clock excessively.

- be patient.

- Try the technique multiple nights to see what works best for you.

test hack

One night last week I couldn't sleep, even though I was tired. I chalked it up to a late afternoon cup of coffee, which was entirely my fault, and maybe a little stress.

Often, when I can't sleep, I feel a wave of worry wash over my body as I count the hours until morning. As I tossed and turned, I would do the math in my head, and sure enough, it made me even more stressed.

This time, though, I remembered the paradoxical intention hack and decided... to let it be.

Instead of panicking, I accepted the fact that I would be awake for the rest of the night. Instead of closing my eyes, I kept them open on purpose, almost taunting my brain with the thought that I would never sleep again.

Compared to other sleep techniques that require meditation, music, or gadgets, this one is super easy, completely free, and it works. All I have to do is try to stay awake and that's it, I fall asleep, so it's best to keep it in my back pocket for a few days when I'm traveling or looking for a quick fix.

When I decide to wake up, it feels like my body is suddenly more inclined to rest. It's like my brain said, "You know what? I was just kidding. I'm actually tired too."

Research reference:

Iskander, A. (2023). Normal multiple sleep latency test values ​​in adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Sleep Medicine. doi:10.1016/j.sleep.2023.06.019.

Janssen-Froimak, M. (2022). Ambivalent intentions in insomnia: a systematic review and meta-analysis. J Sleep Res. doi:10.1111/jsr.13464.

Sharma, MP. (2012). Behavioral interventions for insomnia: Theory and practice. Indian Journal of Psychiatry. DOI: 10.4103/0019-5545.104825.


Dr. Shelby Harris, Director of Sleep Health at Sleepopolis