Clock-watching could be killing your sleep – why clocks have no place in the bedroom

A woman lies in bed at night looking at the clock, unable to sleep
(Image credit: Getty Images)

You wake up and check the clock – 2am, plenty of time left to fall back to sleep on your best mattress. Then you check again and this time it's 3am, then 4am, and now you're just lying there watching the clock tick closer to morning. While monitoring the time may seem like a smart way to ensure you're getting the amount of sleep you need, this clock-watching might actually be the reason you can't drift off.

“Many people feel 'pressure' to sleep, and clocks can have a negative effect when patients are sensitive to this,” explains Dr Jake Deutsch, board certified emergency physician and medical advisory board member for Oura. In our Oura review, we found this smart ring sleep tracker was excellent at monitoring your kip without invasive and anxiety-inducing numbers – and Dr Deutsch's advice is to take the clock out of the bedroom altogether. And yes, this does include your phone. If it tells you the time, it's a clock.

Should I sleep with a clock in the room?

Research has shown that watching the clock can lead to pre-sleep anxiety, resulting in later sleep onset latency – that means it takes you longer to get to sleep. Getting rid of the clock means you can't watch the time, removing that source of anxiety and making it easier to get some quality rest.

If you're worried about oversleeping without the clock in your room, consider covering the face or turning it towards the wall, so you can still hear your alarm. But Dr Deutsch believes if you prioritize your sleep hygiene, it shouldn't be a problem. “I find you don’t need a clock in the bedroom when you have a sleep schedule to serve as a guide, rather than checking the time." (And the best sleep trackers can help you keep an eye on how much shut-eye you're getting.)

A teen uses their phone in bed at night

(Image credit: Getty Images)

For Dr Deutsch, removing the clock is part of optimizing your environment for good sleep. “My sleep hacks include removing clocks, making the room pitch black, cooling the environment, and taking the phone out of the bedroom."

What to do instead of watching the clock

Whether you're yet to drop off or you've woken up in the pitch black, the best thing to do when you can't sleep is get out of bed. The 15-minute rule encourages getting up if you've been lying awake for more than a quarter of an hour, to prevent your brain and body associating being in bed with anything other than sleep (this is also why bed rotting is a bad idea).

We recognize that this sounds like a slightly contradictory rule to mention here – how do you know if you've been waiting 15 minutes when there's no clock? But 15 minutes should be a general guideline, not a set time period. Instead of counting down 15 minutes, wait until you start to feel anxious or frustrated that you can't sleep. That's your cue to get up, go to another room, and take up your bedtime routine until you feel sleepy again.

Woman in bed with her hands over her face

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Removing the clocks can be one way to limit pre-sleep anxiety, but this isn't your only tool for preventing stress from keeping you awake. Our guides 'how to sleep better when you're anxious' and 'how to sleep when you're stressed' are full of tips and techniques, but if stress is severely impacting your sleep, contact your doctor for advice. 

Ruth Jones
Staff Writer

Ruth is TechRadar’s Sleep Writer. She’s here to help you find the perfect sleep setup for your budget and personal preferences. As well as keeping a keen eye on everything that’s going on in the world of mattresses, she regularly speaks to experts to help you learn how to improve your sleep habits, whether that’s by debunking sleep myths or explaining the science behind it all. Prior to joining the TechRadar team, she wrote features and product guides for new parents hoping to get a decent night's sleep, as well as writing for a variety of online spaces.