You’ve yawned your way through the working day, thought of nothing but bed since the moment you left it and nearly nodded off on your commute home. Yet as soon as you crawl back under the duvet, suddenly and inexplicably you’re wide awake, primed to trawl IMDb, become deeply involved in your WhatsApp groups, write your first novel - ready, it seems, to do anything but catch those Zzzs that seemed so appealing before.
This sudden jolt of wakefulness is actually one of the most common sleep disorders. According to sleep-medicine expert Philip Gehrman, assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania, it’s known as conditioned or learned arousal, and happens when getting into bed triggers your brain to ‘arouse’ you, or make you feel more awake, instead of helping you drift off.
‘If someone is a good sleeper, then each night they probably get into bed and fall asleep. So when they get into bed it triggers this auto response of sleepiness,’ Gehrman tells Time. ‘But if you spend night after night tossing and turning not being able to fall asleep, then your body associates that with your bed instead.’
Thanks to common behaviours that can disrupt sleep (staring at screens until late at night, over-caffeinating during the day, high levels of stress, we could go on…) it’s all too easy for your brain to associate your bed with sleeplessness. The fact that many of us often use our beds as impromptu work-stations or in lieu of a proper dining room set up (thank you, property prices) certainly doesn’t help matters, either. According to Time, this cycle of sleeplessness is often known as ‘psychophysiological insomnia,’ and once it has begun, it’s difficult to break free from.
One way to treat this is to make sure that your bed becomes a place of rest again – so avoid sitting working on your laptop, cut down on screen time as much as possible before bed (to avoid the disruptive effect of blue light) and avoiding caffeine from the late afternoon.