New research published in the Primary Care Companion for CNS Disorders has shown that watching the time while trying to fall asleep makes insomnia worse and is associated with more use of sleep aids. Since insomnia is tied to a greater risk of having a heart attack, time monitoring behavior while trying to fall asleep puts the heart at greater risk.
The study included over 4,800 patients who visited a private sleep medical center between 2003 and 2013 and completed the Insomnia Severity Index (ISI) and Time Monitoring Behavior-10 (TMB-10) questionnaires and reported their use of sleep aids. The TMB-10 questionnaire asked participants about their behavior when trying to fall asleep, specifically how much they watched the clock and worried about the time they were taking to fall asleep. An analysis was then conducted to see how clock-watching and related worry were related to the severity of insomnia and the use of sleep aids.
The results showed that watching the clock significantly exacerbated insomnia, which led to greater use of sleep aids. In particular, frustration related to watching the time and not being able to fall asleep caused a significant worsening of insomnia. Insomnia, in turn, led to more use of sleep aids. This pattern could cause a negative cycle of insomnia and sleep aid use that begins with watching the clock and becoming frustrated.
One of the authors of the study noted that patients often watch the clock and begin calculating how long they will take to fall asleep, how much sleep they will get, and what time they should wake up. This cycle of thoughts and the associated stress causes greater insomnia for those patients. To stop the cycle, sleep scientists recommend covering or turning around your clock at night. This will both make your bedroom darker and remove the temptation to check the time while trying to fall asleep.