This One Surprising Habit Makes It Harder to Fall Asleep

Sophie Miura
PHOTO:

Courtesy of Wildfox

For some, falling asleep can be a serious challenge. New findings by Penn Medicine suggest it could be more common than once thought—up to 50% of Americans suffer from acute insomnia each year. Whether you're among this group or just struggle to drift off to sleep from time to time, research suggests one simple habit might be derailing your efforts: going to bed too early.

While it might seem counterintuitive, researchers have found that trying to catch up on lost z's by spending more time in bed has the opposite effect. In the study, 539 people were asked to keep sleep diaries and chronicle their nighttime habits. Of those, 36 developed short-term insomnia but recovered, and 31 developed long-term insomnia that remained unresolved.

So, what set apart those who bounced back from long-term insomniacs? The amount of time spent between the sheets. "[People with insomnia] go to bed early, get out of bed late, and they nap," said lead author Michael Perlis, Ph.D., in a press release. "While this seems a reasonable thing to do, and may well be in the short term, the problem in the longer term is it creates a mismatch between the individual's current sleep ability and their current sleep opportunity; this fuels insomnia."

The key lesson? If you struggle to get a good night's sleep, don't alter your routine straight away. Going to bed and rising at the same time each day trains our bodies to maintain the habit and could be the key to setting your sleep schedule back on track.

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