Daydreaming Leads to Insomnia, Study Finds

Daydreamers may have trouble turning off the part of their brain linked to a wandering mind, which could put them at risk for insomnia, according to a new study.

Daydreaming may keep you up at night, according to a new study published in the journal Sleep. Researchers from the University of California, San Diego found that people who daydream may be unable to stop thoughts from appearing in their head, which can keep them up at night and cause trouble concentrating during the day.

The researchers looked at 50 people, 25 of whom suffered from insomnia, and administered brain scans while the participants took memory tests. The researchers found that the brains of insomniacs performed worse on the memory tests due to a lack of brain activity in critical regions.

“We found that insomnia subjects did not properly turn on brain regions critical to a working memory task and did not turn off ‘mind-wandering’ brain regions irrelevant to the task,” study author Sean Drummond, PhD, associate professor in the department of psychiatry at the University of California, San Diego, said in a statement. “Based on these results, it is not surprising that someone with insomnia would feel like they are working harder to do the same job as a healthy sleeper.”

The “mind-wandering” part of the brain is the same part that is active in daydreamers, according to the study, which may indicate that daydreamers are more likely to develop insomnia.

“The data help us understand that people with insomnia not only have trouble sleeping at night, but their brains are not functioning as efficiently during the day,” Dr. Drummond said in the statement. “Some aspects of insomnia are as much of a daytime problem as a nighttime problem. These daytime problems are associated with organic, measurable abnormalities of brain activity, giving us a biological marker for treatment success.”

But even if you are a daydreamer, there may be a way to turn off your brain and beat insomnia, said Shelby Harris, Psy.D., director of the behavioral sleep medicine program at the Sleep-Wake Disorders Center at the Montefiore Medical Center in New York City.

“The first thing is to try and figure out if there’s something that’s obviously causing the problem sleeping, such as noise or light,” Dr. Harris said. “It seems obvious but a lot of people who have trouble sleeping don’t do that.”

If that doesn’t work, it may be a matter of training your brain to get to sleep, Harris said.

“Sleeping in makes it harder to go to sleep the next night,” she said. “If you can keep the same sleep time and wake time every night, it will help beat your insomnia.”

In addition, it’s important to not use your bed for work or surfing the internet, Harris added.

“Don’t use the bed for anything other than sleep and sex,” she said. “Sometimes, people who can’t sleep will watch TV or use the computer in bed, and that’s a recipe for disaster.”

The lights from the computers can keep you up, Harris said, so the hour before you go to sleep, you should begin to wind down.

“The light from the screens have a blue tint, and that light tricks your brain into thinking it’s day time,” she said.” Avoid caffeine, alcohol and other liquids for three hours before going to bed.”

But the most important thing, Harris said, is to not lay in bed tossing and turning all night.

“When people have trouble sleeping, they lay in bed and try to force themselves to sleep,” she said. “If you’re having trouble sleeping, go sit in another room for a bit and read. Then, when you get sleepy, go back bed.”

By Amir Khan