A long sleep, according to an Irish proverb, is one of the best cures. But as Britain’s 17 million insomniacs will tell you, a long sleep does not always occur on demand.
The onset of sleep is triggered by two things: a decrease in body temperature and an increase in the production of the hormone melatonin. The pineal gland, a small endocrine gland in the centre of the brain, is stimulated by dim light or the dark – when it will start to release melatonin – and inhibited by light. For some people, the onset of British Summer Time, with early dawns and longer twilight, brings with it a host of problems.
Nathaniel Lippiett, 27, is a video journalist who dreads the clocks going forward: “Light unnerves me. It reminds me it’s morning and I think I need to get up. At the height of the summer that’s at 4am. Then I can’t get back to sleep because I start worrying that I’ve not had enough sleep. Then I start worrying that the worry is stopping me sleeping. I call it meta-worry.”
Alex Oberberg, 28, a digital marketing manager, has similar experiences. “I can be really tired, but if it’s not pitch black, I can't sleep. I feel light seeping through my eyelids. Even the light from a TV affects me. In the winter, I can fall asleep at six in the evening as long as it’s dark, but in the summer…”