Trying to sleep without achieving it is a nightmare – to use dream terminology – and anyone who’s ever experienced it knows this. Worrying about not getting enough sleep, especially if there is a workday or other tasks that cannot be postponed, when we wake up, increases the nervousness and makes it difficult to fall into the arms of Morpheus. So much so, that one study found that looking at the clock while trying to sleep increased insomnia and contributed to the consumption of sleeping pills.
Sleep disorders are very frequent, as in Spain it is estimated that 48% of adults and 25% of children do not enjoy good sleep, and more than four million people suffer from some chronic sleep disorder. The Spanish Society of Neurology (SEN), who also warned that despite the importance of sleep to maintain good health, less than a third of those affected consult a professional.
The new research was led by Spencer Dawson, clinical assistant professor in the Department of Psychology and Brain Sciences and associate director of clinical training in the Indiana University College of Arts and Sciences, who studied 4,886 patients attending a sleep clinic. Data was analyzed from a sample of
“Time-monitoring behavior has an effect on the use of sleep medications primarily because it exacerbates insomnia symptoms”
Participants completed questionnaires to report the severity of their insomnia, their use of sleep aids (both prescription and over-the-counter products), and how much time they spent monitoring their own behavior while trying to fall asleep. They were also asked to report any psychiatric diagnosis. The researchers conducted a mediation analysis to determine how the factors influenced each other.
Behavioral interventions to improve sleep without using drugs
Results have been published in Primary Care Companion to CNS Disorders and show that checking the clock to see how much time is left to sleep can lead to a loop of insomnia and the use of sleeping pills, That is, sleep becomes frustrated with insomnia. Affected people are more likely to use sleep aids in an attempt to control their sleep. “We found that time-monitoring behavior primarily affected sleep medication use because it exacerbated insomnia symptoms,” Dawson explains.
It’s a vicious cycle they can’t break out of, say the researchers: “People worry about not getting enough sleep, so they start estimating how long it will take them to get back to sleep and when they should wake up. There isn’t the type of activity that facilitates the ability to fall asleep; the more stressed you are, the more difficult it is to fall asleep.
Dawson says the findings suggest that a simple behavioral intervention can help people trying to cope with insomnia, and the main advice for improving sleep, which he gives every new patient the first time he sees it, is: “One thing people can do is flip or cover their watch, get rid of the smartwatch, put away the phone so they don’t see the time.” “There is no place where looking at the clock is particularly useful,” he concluded.