This common habit makes your insomnia worse
Spencer Dawson, Ph.D., principal investigator, clinical associate professor, and associate director of clinical training in the Department of Psychology and Brain Sciences at Indiana University’s College of Arts and Sciences, conducted a study involving approximately 5,000 patients treated at the university. sleep clinic All of them used sleeping aids to one degree or another.
The researchers interviewed the participants to gather data about their insomnia, sleep medication use, and their own sleep monitoring habits, such as looking at the clock. They were also asked about any psychiatric diagnoses they might have had. After collecting the data, the researchers used a technique called mediation analysis to determine the relationship (if any) between these factors.
In their analysis, the researchers concluded that those who monitored their behavior relied more on sleep medication and had worse insomnia symptoms than those who did not. This suggests that watching the clock and thinking about why you haven’t fallen asleep increases insomnia, leading to even more use of sleeping pills.
“We found that time-management behaviors primarily influence the use of sleep medication because it exacerbates insomnia symptoms,” Dawson said. “People worry about not getting enough sleep and then start estimating how long it will take them to fall back asleep and when they should get up. It’s not an activity that helps you fall asleep—the more stressed you are, the harder it is to fall asleep.”
This research is also particularly helpful because it suggests that a simple change in behavior can help people with insomnia, and therefore help people not rely on prescription drugs to get a good night’s rest. “One thing people could do is turn their watch over or close it, ditch their smartwatch and take their phone away so they’re just not checking the time,” Dawson explained. “There is no place where looking at the clock is particularly useful.”