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How watching the clock impacts insomnia

A new study shows how watching the clock while trying to fall asleep increases insomnia and use of sleep aids

A new study shows watching the clock increases insomnia. (Pexels)
A new study shows watching the clock increases insomnia. (Pexels)

Have you ever watched the clock to count how many hours of sleep you would get if you fall asleep at that very moment? Turns out, this habit impacts your sleep negatively. A new study has shown that watching the clock while trying to fall asleep increases insomnia and the use of sleep aids.

The research led by Spencer Dawson, clinical assistant professor and associate director of clinical training in the College of Arts and Sciences' Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences at Indiana University involved a sample of nearly 5,000 patients presenting for care at a sleep clinic, according to a press statement by Indiana University.

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Insomnia affects between 4 and 22% of adults and is linked with long-term health problems including cardiovascular disease, diabetes and depression, according to the press statement. 

For this study participants completed questionnaires about the severity of their insomnia, their use of sleep medication and the time they spent monitoring their own behaviour while trying to fall asleep. The results are published in The Primary Care Companion for CNS Disorders. Researchers found that monitoring behaviour affected sleep medication use as it exacerbates insomnia symptoms.

"People are concerned that they're not getting enough sleep, then they start estimating how long it will take them to fall back asleep and when they have to be up. That is not the sort of activity that's helpful in facilitating the ability to fall asleep -- the more stressed out you are, the harder time you're going to have falling asleep," Dawson said in the statement.

As people became more irritated about their sleeplessness, they are more likely to use sleep aids to control their sleep better. The study shows that indicates a simple behavioural change could help people struggling with insomnia.

"One thing that people could do would be to turn around or cover up their clock, ditch the smart watch, get the phone away so they're simply not checking the time," Dawson said in the statement. "There's not any place where watching the clock is particularly helpful."

This new study reiterates the findings of a 2007 research published in the Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry that showed how clock monitoring can trigger pre-sleep worry and fuel insomnia and exacerbate misperception of sleep.

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