What Is “Cricketing”? The Viral Trick That’s Helping People Fall Asleep

Updated: Apr. 13, 2024

The simple, often unconscious, exercise is named after an insect which makes its well known noise by rubbing its legs together.

As overworked as many of us feel, falling asleep should be easy—but a significant percentage of Americans report that lulling to sleep at the end of the day doesn’t come easy. In such cases, an unconventional solution has emerged that’s reportedly providing relief for some: It’s called “cricketing.”

Cricketing is the name that’s been given to a practice in which a person with insomnia rubs their feet together and falls into a blissful sleep. The simple, often unconscious, exercise is named after the mid-summer night chirper, the cricket, which makes its common noise by rubbing its legs together.

This little critter appears to be influencing sleep patterns in powerful ways: Videos on TikTok with the keyword “cricket feet” have been viewed over 99 billion times. One popular video with over 1.4 million views includes scores of comments from people who have been using this trick, many since they were children, without ever knowing there was some science behind what they were doing. 

Why does “cricketing” work for some people?

Healthcare providers and therapists have given their thumbs up to the technique, assuring that it’s completely normal. Cricketing, they say, is a form of stimming, which is short for “self-stimulation.” 

Lauren Kerwin, PhD, a clinical psychologist, told Well + Good: “Those who cricket while they fall asleep, which is common, do so often to improve their sensory processing of their body lying down with blankets around them in a dark and quiet space.” She added that repetitive motions like these can stimulate the release of oxytocin, which relaxes the body.

An Eastern medicine practitioner explained the scientific mechanisms at work here—Eileen Li, PT, DPT, L.Ac, a licensed acupuncturist and doctor of physical therapy, told Bustle that cricketing “can help alleviate tension, improve blood circulation, and provide a sense of comfort and well-being.” Dr. Li added that the technique could also work because it stimulates common pressure points in the foot leading to relaxation.

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When “cricketing” indicates a problem

While cricketing is often an unconscious and harmless behavior, looking into the source of a continuing sleep issue should be discussed with a healthcare provider. If you find yourself unable to sleep most nights, it could be another issue. Many chronic conditions can cause insomnia that should be assessed by a healthcare provider, like heart disease, depression, and other mental health disorders, and type 2 diabetes. It could also be a condition such as restless legs syndrome. Jade Wu, PhD, a board-certified sleep psychologist, said that if you also tend to experience pain or other strange sensations that lead to cricketing, it could be a medical issue. People with restless legs syndrome often find that “moving or rubbing the legs relieves the sensation,” Dr. Wu told Health. “This is often considered a sleep-related disorder because it does tend to disrupt sleep.”

For occasional cricketers, there’s usually no need for concern about its impact on health. However, if consistent sleep difficulties persist, consulting a healthcare provider can help assess overall health and explore alternative techniques for natural sleep induction.