Has this happened to you? You’ve felt sleepy all day – maybe, you’ve had a little nap on your sofa whilst watching TV – but as soon as you settle down on the best mattress (opens in new tab), you’re suddenly wide awake and can’t get to sleep. If you answered yes to this question, you’re not alone, as it’s been reported that up to 48% of adults suffer with sleep disorders (opens in new tab).
Whether you sleep like a log or toss and turn all night, we’re all looking for ways to sleep better, and more and more people are looking to social media for hacks and tips, especially TikTok. TikTok sleep hacks have become increasingly popular, from the military sleep method (opens in new tab) to the Scandinavian duvet trick (opens in new tab).
A popular TikTok user and NHS surgeon, Dr Karan Raj (opens in new tab) is well known for his videos giving medical advice, debunking health myths and giving sleep tips. Addressing the issue of feeling wide awake when you’re meant to be going to sleep, Dr Raj has some stellar advice that can help you fall asleep easier and rest more efficiently.
In a viral TikTok, Dr Raj answered the question: “why do I stop feeling tired when I get into bed?” The answer is a phenomenon called learned or conditioned arousal. In this post, we look into what conditioned arousal is, how it disrupts your sleep and how you can overcome it.
What is conditioned arousal?
Conditioned arousal is a state where the mind and body are on alert, according to Insomnia Health Info (opens in new tab). In Dr Raj’s TikTok, he claims that the reason you experience conditioned arousal is because “you’ve accidentally trained your body to associate your bed with being awake by doing stuff in bed which stimulates you.”
While the causes of conditioned arousal can be as simple as working from your bed, watching Netflix, eating or scrolling on your phone, it can also stem from anxiety. If you spend most nights worrying and stressing about things, this is not only the ultimate sleep killer (opens in new tab) but your body becomes trained to think that it should feel awake and frustrated when you’re in between the best sheets (opens in new tab).
This has a serious effect on your sleep patterns, as “these things teach your brain that your bed isn’t for sleeping,” says Dr Raj. This disconnect will leave you feeling tired in places where you should be concentrating and wide awake in places where you should be resting, like your bedroom. To tackle this issue and help you fall asleep easier once you get into bed, Dr Raj initially suggests to keep your bed solely for sleeping and to do other activities like working or eating in different rooms in your house.
But his best piece of advice for tackling conditioned arousal at bedtime is “if you struggle to fall asleep for 20 minutes, get out of bed and move to a different part of the house until you feel sleepy again.” He says this helps you to break the association between your bed and feelings of restlessness. While it might take a while to see any changes, this can definitely help you get back into a sleep schedule and start feeling tired at the appropriate times, i.e. when you enter your bedroom.
For more sleep tips, check out this sleep psychologist-recommended 30 second sleep hack (opens in new tab) and be aware of the 5 strange signs you’re not getting quality sleep (opens in new tab).