Trying to Stay Awake May Cure Your Insomnia

Rather than attempt to fall asleep, you should keep yourself awake for a better night of sleep.


By Martin Reed


People who suffer from insomnia often find the same things happening night after night as they try to fall asleep. They glance at the clock, get up to check on children or pets, go through a mental checklist of what they need to do the next day, check their phone, and so on. Essentially, bedtime has become a time of repetition and it has developed into what many call “learned insomnia.” What this means is that although you consciously know that you need to rest, you have subconsciously taught yourself that you have better things to do than go to sleep. 

It is an internal battle to try and sleep when you have so much on your mind or you have a feeling that you need to ‘check one more thing’ before you can sleep. A new concept to combat this is to not even try and sleep. Do the opposite; try to stay awake. By taking this approach, you may begin to break the cycle of learned insomnia. 

The result of a sleep investigation performed on insomniacs was released in 2003. It showed that participants who were asked to force themselves to stay awake were unable to do so. The study was comprised of 34 insomniacs who were divided into two groups. One group was instructed to try and sleep as they normally would. The second group was instructed to stay awake. They were told to lie in bed with their eyes open and to stay still. They were not allowed to use any external stimuli such a television, computers, etc, to keep themselves awake. 

After a two-week trial the results were conclusive. The group of insomniacs who were instructed to stay awake as long as possible was reported to have fallen asleep faster than the group who was actually trying to sleep. The study showed that forcing yourself to stay awake may be the quickest way to fall asleep. 

Granted, this is only one study. Future research will need to be undertaken to prove that this approach, called Paradoxical Intention, can eliminate insomnia for those who suffer from learned insomnia. However, you can try it on yourself to see if you get the same results as participants in the study. 

The next time you go to bed, tell yourself to stay awake. Lay there as long as you want and go over as many check lists in your mind that you would like. Think about whatever you want to think about. Tell yourself that you have all night to do it because you do not plan on sleeping, just resting your body. 

Who knows? The next thing that may happen is that you wake up and it is morning. Nothing may bring on sleep faster than knowing you are not allowed to go to sleep. 

Martin is the creator of Insomnia Land's free online sleep training course for insomnia. Over 3,000 insomniacs have completed his course and 96% of graduates say they would recommend it to a friend.

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