What is bedtime procrastination?
You might have found yourself staying up late even when you are tired and ready for bed. This can be because after a long and busy day with little time for yourself, there are still many things you want to get done before calling it a day. Researchers from Netherlands (Kroese et al., 2014) have called this “bedtime procrastination”, and define it as “failing to go to bed at the intended time, while no external circumstances prevent a person from doing so”, as a way to keep doing what is keeping you awake.
The researchers also relate active and inactive procrastination (Chu & Choi, 2005) to bedtime procrastination. Active procrastinators engage in other activities to deliberately procrastinate, and work well under pressure. Active bedtime procrastinators thus end up going to bed later than they intend because they are busy doing other tasks. Passive procrastinators find it difficult to stop what they are doing and often do not complete tasks on time. Passive bedtime procrastinators thus delay their bedtime through inaction.
Do you engage in bedtime procrastination?
You are likely to engage in bedtime procrastination if you get little time for yourself throughout the day or would like to complete a specific number of tasks before going to sleep. Difficulty in managing time, resisting temptations and acting in accordance with your intentions can also translate into a chronic delay in going to bed. Some things that might be keeping you awake are work, housework, social media, watching TV, reading or even a need for peace and quiet.
If you often tend to go to bed at irregular times, later than you intend to, and are unable to stop what you’re doing or get easily distracted when you plan to go to bed, it is likely that you engage in bedtime procrastination.
How does it affect you?
Bedtime procrastination is related to general procrastination and self-regulation. Those who procrastinate experience greater stress and poorer health than those who do not. They also delay seeking treatment, and tend to engage less in healthy behaviours like fruit and vegetable intake, and physical activity.
Adequate sleep is essential in order to function well, and bedtime procrastination results in insufficient sleep. This in turn can cause difficulties in mental abilities such as concentration and memory, and physical conditions like obesity, hypertension and cardiovascular disease.
How can you stop procrastinating at bedtime?
Bedtime procrastination can be differentiated from general procrastination in a number of ways. First, it occurs only at night, when you have low mental energy and low self-control, and secondly, it is not related to avoiding tasks that you do not want to do, but rather to not wanting to stop what you are doing. For these reasons, strategies that require willpower or cognitive resources might not always work to help with bedtime procrastination, and those that do not require a lot of effort can be more effective. Some of these strategies might help you tackle bedtime procrastination are.
Identify the problem: Understand what is preventing you from going to sleep, by looking at the activities that you have been doing instead of sleeping. If possible, try to schedule them earlier in the day. Also, try to realistically evaluate whether it is possible to accomplish everything you have set out for yourself before bedtime. If not, alter your expectations and spread these tasks out over the week.
Put electronic devices away: Stay away from your electronic devices before bedtime since the light from them can disturb your sleep cycle. Switch off your laptop and keep it away if you tend to work from home or binge watch TV shows. Put your phone away to make sure that you are not disturbed by notifications when you are about to sleep. You can try setting alarms or timers to switch off these devices at a scheduled time everyday.
Set a sleep schedule: Decide on a regular sleeping time and keep it consistent even on the weekends. Over time, this will help your body know when it is bedtime, making it easier for you to go to sleep. Figure out the number of hours and time that best suits you. However, do not pressurise yourself with a specific time, and keep a window of one hour.
Let yourself unwind: Set up a relaxing and regular bedtime routine, such as taking a hot bath, listening to relaxing music or reading. This can help you mentally prepare for sleep, as well as detach from other activities that might prevent you from sleeping.
Develop healthy sleep habits: Focus on better sleep hygiene. This means sleeping in a dark, quiet and comfortable room, and using your bed primarily for sleep. Keep all other activities out of your bedroom or at least away from your bed. Try to avoid heavy meals, caffeine and alcohol two to three hours before your scheduled bedtime.
If you tend to struggle with getting a good night’s sleep, feel free to reach out to us. An InnerHour therapist will be able to help you.
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