Howdy all. I hope you had a great weekend!
Tonight I write briefly about a habit many millions have adopted as an integral part of their night-time routines: staring at the alarm clock.
When you awaken in the middle of the night, it’s a perfectly natural impulse to glimpse at your clock. It seems important to know how much more time you have before it goes off, or how much sleep you’ve gotten, or how many more hours you get to spend in bed. However, for those with insomnia, this “clock-watching” can easily compound the frustration that comes with being awake in the middle of the night when you don’t want to be.
Here’s the typical scenario. You go to bed, hoping you’re going to fall asleep quickly. After a struggle and some tossing and turning, you finally manage to trundle off to sleep. Suddenly, it’s 2:07 a.m. You turn your head to view the clock. The red digital numbers glare starkly at you, offering you a silent challenge: “OK, now you know; so what are you going to do with the information I just gave you?” You feel the frustration already gnawing at you as that precious sensation of drowsiness starts to ebb, giving way to an unwelcome wakeful feeling arriving way too early. You turn your head forward to stare now at the ceiling, hoping the sleepiness will somehow return, but it’s too late. The wakefulness that inevitably accompanies your exasperation is firmly planted now, dancing about in your head derisively as you try with increasing desperation to achieve sleep again. A half-hour crawls by . . . or was it fifteen minutes? Maybe you should look at the clock again to find out: there’s that meeting you have to be fresh for, you have to get up at 6 at the latest, and you need that sleep badly to be in top form later in the day. Should you turn your head toward the clock again? A couple seconds of existential struggle later, you satisfy your need. It’s now 2:11 a.m.
Does all this sound familiar? Sure it does. It’s happened, in one form or another, to virtually all of us (myself included) during our lives. That urge, that need to gaze repeatedly at the clock can easily and naturally become a habit, an insomniac ritual. And for some this ritual can, over time, get completely out of control, with an increasing need to look at the clock all the time, every several minutes, sometimes even several times per minute. How is this not going to make you completely cray-cray? I’ve had insomnia patients who have purchased those special clocks that actually project the time in huge red numbers onto the ceiling, so they can watch each minute of sleeplessness tick slowly away every night. I do not advise this.
There are two problems with habitual clock-watching: it doesn’t help, and it can often make insomnia worse.
Think about it. Watching the clock doesn’t make the time go any faster; it doesn’t make you fall asleep any faster. It only frustrates you, because every time you gaze at the clock you add a little bit more pressure upon yourself to perform, to achieve the sleep you so desperately want. And the more frequently you watch the clock, the more the aggravation mounts. You may not even be aware consciously of the frustration, but it’s there, creating more and more mental stimulation and making you feel increasingly awake and alert, at precisely the worst time of your diurnal cycle.
My advice to habitual clock-watchers: turn the clock around. If the alarm clock is working properly and if the wake-up time is set properly (you should check these prior to your bedtime), it will awaken you when it’s supposed to. Get a second alarm clock that is battery-powered if you’re concerned about a power outage preventing you from awakening at the right time. Your clock doesn’t care if you’re staring at it all night or not. It’ll go off when it does. Trust it to do that for you. If you can free yourself from the psychic need to look and to try to control time when you can’t, you will only help yourself and increase the likelihood of eventually freeing yourself from the bondage of insomnia.
OK, folks, I am going to take a little breather from writing for several days. I will be back at it in full force before long, however. Sleep well, everybody!