I often stay up too late.
Staying up late is one of my bad habits. There is always one more email to write, one more dish to wash, one more episode of The Big Bang Theory to watch. Like a lot of parents, I crave some time to myself after the kids go to bed. I am a sleep procrastinator.
What is sleep procrastination?
I wasn’t actually sure that sleep procrastination is a “real thing” until I did some research. There was study published in Frontiers in Psychology in 2014 that looked at the correlation between bedtime procrastination and self-regulation, general procrastination, and insufficient sleep.
Sleep procrastination, like other forms of procrastination, is avoiding or postponing something that you intend to do. In this case – sleep. It’s different than being a night owl. Night owls are most alert, creative, and productive during the late hours. Sleep procrastinators are postponing sleep in order to do something they need or want to do instead.
Have you ever tried to put a child to bed who stalls for a cup of water, another story, and every stuffed animal under the sun? Well, sleep procrastination is the adult version of stalling. We do it to ourselves and then pay the price the next day.
Most of us don’t dislike sleep. In fact, adults frequently talk about how they like sleep and wish they could get more.
Why do we resist going to bed?
You might be staying up because of:
- Video games
- Internet or social media
- Anxiety and overthinking
- Trouble sleeping (insomnia, nightmares, night waking)
- Need for peace and quiet
New York is no longer the only city that never sleeps. We all live in a world that never stops. The internet allows us to shop, work, and connect with friends all through the night. Our willpower wanes the later it gets, which means it’s hard to resist Netflix and video games late at night.
Sleep procrastination could be blamed on poor time management or lack of self-control. That may be part of it. However, I see a connection between perfectionism, workaholic tendencies and sleep procrastination. There’s increasing pressure to work after hours, to respond to texts and emails in real time, to have virtual meetings with China at midnight. When are we supposed to have down time? I would propose that sleep procrastination is the result of our overworking.
We see sleep as a luxury rather than a necessity.
The problem, of course, is that we need sleep. I’m a big believer that adequate sleep is essential for good physical and emotional health. Lack of sleep leaves us irritable, unfocused, and under-performing.
I think the solution lies in setting boundaries – both internally and externally.
Set boundaries between work and personal time.
If you work from home in the evening, set a quitting time and stick to it. Turn off your phone if at all possible. Most things really can wait until tomorrow.
Create a bedtime routine.
Netflix, social media, and your favorite books are the enemy here. Set a time to turn it off and allow time to transition. Having a set routine and bedtime means that you don’t have to work so hard to make it happen. Again, think about how bedtime routines help children sleep. An adult bedtime routine might include a cup of decaf tea, listening to calming music, brushing your teeth and washing your face, reading in bed. Once the routine is set, it will be easier to get to bed on time.
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