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How to sleep: Doctor shares ‘paradoxical’ sleep hack that may help you nod off in minutes

Olympian Greg Rutherford shares his top tips on sleep

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The effects of sleep deprivation are well studied, and research shows the consequences for our health are long-lasting. Studies on both humans and animals show getting too little shut-eye can damage the brain, increasing the odds of dementia and Alzheimer’s. According to one doctor, challenging your ‘go to sleep’ thoughts may be key to helping the brain nod off.

Data shows approximately 36 percent of UK adults struggle to get to sleep at least on a weekly basis.

For many people, insomnia involves an inability to fall and stay asleep throughout the night, resulting in an un-restorative slumber.

Fortunately, there are ways to overcome this, and Doctor Karan Raj took to TikTok to share a trusted hack.

The method, known as paradoxical intention, is a cognitive technique that involves persuading oneself to engage with a feared behaviour.

Doctor Raj explained: “Basically, you tell yourself, ‘I’m not going to sleep’ and you stay awake.

“You don’t read a book and you don’t go on your phone, no TV, nothing. You just lie in bed, eyes open.

“You’re forcing yourself to stay awake, tell yourself, ‘don’t go to sleep’. In many cases, you will feel tired and fall asleep. That worked for me.”

Doctor Raj continued: “By the way, this is called ‘paradoxical intention.

“If I tell you not to think about a polar bear…. guess what you think of first, works the same way!”

Doctor Raj is not the only expert who swears by the sleep hack.

Doctor Katharine Lederle, a sleep scientist at sleep therapy programme Somnia, told Glamour: “In paradoxical intention, you set out to do – or wish for – the thing you’re trying to avoid, thereby breaking the fear cycle.

“So, by doing this feared or disliked behaviour, you eventually reduce the anxiety around it.

“In a way, you could say, paradoxical intention is prescribing the symptom you want to avoid, meaning that the performance anxiety related to sleep is reduced.”

The expert added that the method works best when combined with other sleep therapy strategies.

“While paradoxical intention can be effective on its own, it might be more effective when delivered as part of a multi-opponent approach,” she added.

Other measures may include sticking to a sleep schedule, which involves setting aside no more than eight hours for sleep.

It is important to pay attention to food intake before sleep, create a restful environment, and include physical activity in your daily routine.

The NHS explains that sleep problems usually sort themselves out within approximately a month.

The health body adds, however: “Longer stretches of bad sleep can start to affect our lives. It can cause extreme tiredness and make usually manageable tasks harder.

“If you regularly have problems sleeping, you may be experiencing insomnia. Insomnia may last months or even years, but usually improves if you change your sleeping habits.”

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