Have you tried counting sheep, drinking chamomile tea, or maybe even made up fake scenarios to try and fall asleep? A TikToker is instead claiming that just closing your eyes and trying to sleep is beneficial for your brain.
Gaining 3.2 million views, the TikTok video claimed, “if you can’t fall asleep, your brain still likes it if you just lay there with your eyes closed, trying to sleep.” (1) The video does note that sleeping is better for you and your brain, but if you never fall asleep parts of your brain are still able to rest.
The comment section had a mixed reaction, with some people fully believing in this claim, while others questioned its effectiveness. A top comment said, “Idk why it feels like torture to me,” with replies explaining they can’t stop thinking if they just lay in bed waiting for sleep.
One commenter said, “This is actually true! If you can’t sleep, at least chill out and relax with your eyes closed.” (1)
While you might have been given this advice or even told someone else, “just close your eyes and wait for sleep,” is this common sleep suggestion helpful or harmful? We brought in an expert to find out.
Expert Weighs In
TikTok has taught us a lot about dos and don’ts of sleep, but, more often than not, not all of the app’s advice is good advice. Annie Miller, a licensed therapist specializing in sleep therapy, tells Sleepopolis that this advice might not be the best plan if you can’t sleep.
“In fact, trying too hard to sleep might actually work against you,” Miller said. Your brain can interpret your tossing and turning or other efforts trying to sleep as a stressful situation. Miller states that this can lead to stress hormones, like cortisol and adrenaline, being released. Instead of the hope of eventually falling asleep, you’d be keeping yourself awake.
Miller continues, saying, “In time, your brain may begin to associate the bed with stress and lack of sleep, which has the potential to lead to insomnia.”
Anytime spent lying in bed trying to sleep is called sleep effort and the goal is to fall asleep with no effort. So If you’re lying in bed with your eyes closed for more than 15 – 20 minutes, Miller does not advise continuing with this if you’re struggling to sleep.
Outside of the bedroom, laying down with your eyes closed can be beneficial. Known as quiet wakefulness or restful wakefulness, Miller explained parts of your brain get the chance to rest even if you’re not fully asleep. “Certain regions of the brain can enter a more relaxed mode while others remain active,” she said.
Another great way for your brain to rest while still being awake, meditation. Miller explains, “this state can allow your brain to process thoughts, memories, and emotions,” like a small vacation for your mind during a busy day.
How to Fall Asleep With No Effort
While some of these tips might not be quick fixes, finding what helps you fall asleep and stay asleep is worth the investment. Miller told Sleepopolis her go-to advice for falling asleep with no sleep effort.
Get up and out of bed.
Going against the TikTok’s claim, instead of laying in bed with your eyes closed, try engaging in a quiet activity like reading and then returning to your bed. This allows you to get in bed feeling sleepy which can lessen the time and effort it takes to fall asleep. Miller explains that by doing this you’re also preventing your brain from associating your bed with frustration, instead allowing a sleep-conductive state when the time is right.
Wake up and go to bed at the same time every morning.
By having a set wake and bedtime schedule, your body is able to better prepare for sleep.
Getting sunlight and exercise throughout the day.
What you do during the day affects how you sleep at night. By getting morning sunlight and staying active, Miller said it makes your need for sleep higher at night.
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1. Wereaditonenight on TikTok. TikTok. August 6,2023. https://www.tiktok.com/@wereaditonenight/video/7264344288262098222.
Miller, Annie. Personal Interview. August 2023.