We’ve all fallen victim to the allure of procrastination at some point or other in our lives.
It may not be healthy, but we all understand the desire to skip a gym session and lounge on the couch with a hot pizza in hand.
Yet putting off something as wonderful as sleep?
Sounds preposterous, right?
Well, while you may have never heard of it, sleep procrastination real and is something that many of us deal with. Young children are well practiced at putting off the dreaded bedtime hour, but even adults find themselves delaying their bedtime well past a reasonable hour.
If you’ve ever struggled to push back the clock, then you’ve likely suffered from a form of sleep procrastination. You want to go to bed earlier but can’t seem to make it happen, no matter how much you try to break bad habits.
You’re not alone: 40% of adults average around six hours of sleep per night, or less. And as we all know, lack of sleep does a lot more than merely set you up for a bad day.
Medical research suggests that sleep deprivation can cause additional stress on the body, which can cause weight gain and increase risk of developing respiratory diseases, Alzheimer’s and cancers.
So What is Sleep Procrastination?
Often these extra hours are spent scrolling through social media, binging Netflix, or swiping right (we aren’t judging, as we all have done this).
There’s a difference between night owls and sleep procrastinators. Those who are effective at night tend to be productive, while still performing at their peak during the day.
Sleep procrastinators, on the other hand, struggle to get up at the alarm, while having done nothing particularly productive the night before to justify less sleep. This can often make the process more painful, as the extra hours spent at night aren’t really beneficial, while the hours of sleep lost can cause severe strain on daily life.
Unfortunately later nights don’t mean later alarm clocks.
If you’ve been struggling to find ways to get to bed on time, we have some tips on how to break the habit and get you back on schedule.
But first, it’s important to understand what actually drives procrastination.
The Underlying Causes of Sleep Procrastination
Each person has their own unique reason for putting off the pillow. While we could spend multiple articles delving into the varied ways that people find themselves avoiding sleep, it’s best to give an overview for you to get a broader understanding of what might be holding you back.
The following list is a mixture of physical, mental and emotional reasons that often affect us in multiple ways.
Time spent playing video games, watching movies and other stimulating activities can cause disruptions in your natural sleep cycle. The studies on overstimulation suggests it has an affect on health and behaviour in children.
The stimulation may be mental, but it causes your body to stop producing melatonin, a hormone that regulates the sleep/wake cycle. This means we are naturally less drowsy when it comes time to go to sleep.
Melatonin can also be affected by blue light emitted from our TV and phone screens. This blue light simulates daylight, confusing the body into producing less melatonin in response.
Turning the phone brightness down and changing the blue light to yellow light helps, but often the best solution is to switch off devices altogether half an hour before bed.
Needing More Time
We all lead busy lives. Some of us have tasks that we want to finish, or simply strive to enjoy more time to ourselves.
Unfortunately, this relaxation time tends to be pushed back as late as possible.
Wanting more time isn’t a bad thing, and the desire isn’t one you should suppress or do away with. Instead, block out time to complete your tasks as effectively as you can.
Be sure to include leisure time specifically, so that it becomes an important ritual for you. We all need time to relax and recover.
When you haven’t completed what you set out to, accept that it’s better to be rested and energised for tomorrow. You can always pick up where you left off without trading away your clarity and enthusiasm from lack of sleep.
Ignoring the Circadian Rhythm
The natural drowsiness that comes before bedtime comes from the circadian rhythm. Some people are keenly aware of theirs, while others don’t notice it.
If you don’t tend to get drowsy as the night goes on, you’ll find that the hours slip by without a natural rhythm guiding you to bed.
Becoming more aware of this can help guide you to bed. Pay attention to subtle signs that you are getting tired. If you have to, set yourself alarms to remind you that the time is nearing.
Overthinking…and the Fear of Thinking
Many of us know what it’s like to be up late with a barrage of thoughts flurrying through our heads. Overthinking every detail of the past, present and future can be overwhelming, and will keep us awake well into the night.
But sometimes people anticipate that lying in bed in quiet makes it too easy to begin thinking about one’s choices and mistakes and experiences before bed. So rather than engage in overthinking, they choose to do the opposite and stay up as late as possible to avoid thinking and feeling.
It can go either way depending on the person.
Either they’re consumed with thinking through every detail of their lives, or they resist feeling emotions that are suppressed and uncomfortable, intimidated by the silence between bedtime and sleep.
Firstly, don’t judge yourself if you fall into either category. It’s natural to find ourselves overwhelmed with ourselves and our lives, in one way or another.
Start by accepting that you have this particular problem, and find a way to let out some of the thoughts in your mind. This especially applies to those who are afraid of thinking and feeling; all of that resistance is building up inside!
Meditation can be a fantastic resource before bed to calm the mind and drift off to sleep in peace. Another technique is keeping a journal of your thoughts and feelings. Whenever something comes to mind, write it down.
This keeps your mind clear and calm, so it’s easier to get to sleep.
Our Top Tips for Overcoming Sleep Procrastination
Here are our best tips to apply now that we understand the causes of sleep procrastination:
Identify the Activities That Keep You Awake
First up, work out the most logical reasons you’re not getting to sleep.
Are you still doing household chores or strenuous mental activities before bed?
What could be keeping you awake?
Be sure to handle these well before bed or over the weekend whenever possible.
Understand your sleep needs…
Only you can know if you’re the type of person who needs a good eight hours sleep. Some need more, some need less.
If you know what you need, you can pick the optimal bedtime for you.
…But Be Flexible
If you’ve been struggling with sleep procrastination up until now, chances are setting a rigid bedtime routine is only going to fail.
Going to bed too early, for example, can cause mild insomnia if your anxiety levels were to rise over frustrations that you aren’t falling to sleep in time.
Set a time, but allow an hour to alleviate any stress regarding sleep.
Limit Your Time on Screens in the Evening
We discussed earlier how blue lights from electronic devices have a negative impact on melatonin. You don’t have to look far to find research that suggests the positive impacts on limiting screen time.
Try to switch off at least a half hour before you go to bed.
Create a Bedtime Ritual
Spend some time working out what helps you get a good night of sleep.
Some people prefer a glass of warm milk before bed. Reading a book can help you to calm down your mind if it isn’t too stimulating. A bath with relaxing scents and oils could get you calm and ready to nod off.
Find the ritual that works for you.
If you’re looking for some further help in overcoming other health issues, such as weight loss and dealing with food cravings, click here for more!
We hope by now you’ve got a solid insight into sleep procrastination. Remember to soothe yourself, rather than judge yourself, for struggling with your sleep.
If you follow the above steps as best you can, you’re bound to start sleeping better and be on the path to living your best life yet.