One of the most effective ways to trick yourself into falling asleep is to, well, try not to sleep. Trying too hard to sleep never works, and all that worry and anxiety about falling asleep is what actually keeps so many people up at night, says Deirdre Conroy, a sleep psychologist and the clinical director of the Behavioral Sleep Medicine Clinic at the University of Michigan Health Sleep Disorders Centers.
By doing the opposite and forcing yourself to lie in bed and stay awake all night – a phenomenon called paradoxical intention – you’ll unintentionally doze off at some point. “In your mind, you’re actually trying to stay up but sleep will eventually kick in,” Conroy says.
Let yourself worry
Conroy said carving out time to worry earlier in the day can help you fall asleep at bedtime. Instead of dismissing your worries altogether, if you spend time worrying about things a few hours before bed – not right at bedtime – you can sleep better at night.
A quick tip: Take 15 minutes to jot down those concerns in a journal, so you can get them out on paper and leave them there. “That actually can decrease the amount of worry that happens at bedtime,” Conroy says.
Exhaust your mind, not your body
There’s a common misconception that exercising at night can help you sleep easier. But while working out tires your body out, it doesn’t necessarily exhaust your mind.
“After a marathon, your body might be tired but that doesn’t mean your mind will be ready for sleep,” Conroy says. Note: regular exercise improves sleep, in general, but exercising in order to fall asleep won’t do you much good.
Instead of working out to facilitate sleep, Conroy recommended engaging in activities that can tire you out mentally. “We are social people, our brains love to learn and so if you’re not engaging with the world in the day, it may affect your sleep,” Conroy says.