You're Still Recovering from Daylight Saving Time
Look, we get it. Daylight Saving Time is like a monster you forget is lurking under your bed. "It's just a myth!" you tell yourself—until one night (every year) it strikes, and you wake up to discover part of your Sunday gone. Then Monday is hell. Then you spend the next week catching up on sleep and feeling...off.
Around Sleepy Monday, most Americans do not get enough sleep.
Charles Barnes, a business professor at the University of Washington who studies organizational behavior, coined the term "Sleepy Monday" to describe that dead-on-your-feet feeling you get after the clocks have sprung forward. He found that around Sleepy Monday, most Americans do not get enough sleep—which leads to more workplace accidents, more car accidents, impaired decision-making among judges, and more time wasted on the internet instead of working.
The Takeaway: It's not you. Sleepy Monday (and Tuesday, and, um, Wednesday…) is officially a thing. Go easy on yourself and try to get extra rest around those clock-change times.
You're Too Worried About How Much You're Sleeping
If you often wake up feeling like you didn't get enough restful sleep, a sleep tracker can give you an idea of how much true sleep you're getting a night. But a study published last month suggests that obsessing over tracker data can lead to bad self-diagnoses and anxiety, which actually prevent tracker-wearers from sleeping well.
As the study's authors explain, many users correlate tracker data and daytime sleepiness, leading to a "perfectionistic quest for the ideal sleep." People who use sleep trackers may not fully understand, for example, that most of us wake up several times a night, or that sleeping too long can actually cause fatigue—and they then alter their sleep patterns in unhealthy ways. And, of course, fixating on data without context is never relaxing.
The Takeaway: Take your sleep tracker data (and any worries you have about your sleep quality) with a grain of salt, and focus your energies on cultivating a restful approach to your Zs.
You're Not Coordinating Your Sleep With Your Neighbors'
"What we need is a sleep democracy," Thomas Kantermann told a TEDx audience last year. Kantermann, a chronobiologist (someone who studies biological rhythms), and his co-researchers are conducting an experiment in a town in Germany, where the residents are wearing trackers that monitor variables like their work hours, their daily screen time, their exercise and diet routines, and even their socializing habits. Residents can get feedback through the app about sleep routines "based on crowdsourced information provided by others who experience similar issues."
A book released earlier this month by writer Benjamin Reiss, Wild Nights: How Taming Sleep Created Our Restless World, explores Kantermann's vision, explaining how information yielded by the study will inform lifestyle recommendations, like school start and end times (based on "peak alertness periods"), changes in public lighting (to mimic changes in natural light), and the distribution of "intelligent alarm clocks," which will go off during a person's lightest sleep.
The Takeaway: It takes a village...for you to get your best sleep. But if you're not connected to one via tracker, listen to your body and your surroundings for cues!
You Live in Spain
Spain has a complicated relationship with sleep right now. The country is, essentially, in the wrong time zone. Lying southwest of London, Madrid should be on GMT. Instead, the country is in the same time zone as Germany, a holdover from the days of fascist dictator Francisco Franco. A 2013 study showed that the Spanish sleep 53 minutes less than the rest of Europe, on average. The Spanish government is looking into moving the clocks back an hour, which could give workers more control over their hours and help them improve their work-life balance. The change would most likely occur in March of 2018.
Last month, Spanish MPs also called for broadcasters to have TV shows aimed at children end by 11 p.m. This was after the season finale of the Spanish version of MasterChef Junior, which has a cult following, ran until 1 a.m.
The Takeaway: If you're tired and in Spain, be patient: relief is on the way. In the meantime, consider a siesta.