Sleep procrastination is a relatively new term for the act of delaying sleep. At Luna & Leaf, we are big believers in the power of good quality sleep. So when we stumbled on the phenomenon of “Sleep Procrastination”, it piqued our interest. Why would anyone want to delay bedtime deliberately? What is the psychology behind the practice, and how can we tell if we are guilty of sleep procrastination?
What does Sleep Procrastination look like?
Have you ever finished work late, eaten and then chosen to binge-watch a Netflix series, endlessly timeline scroll, or play a computer game for hours rather than going to bed? Then you may be guilty of sleep procrastination.
Simply stated, sleep procrastination, or revenge bedtime procrastination as it is also known, means deliberately staying awake for no justifiable reason. Most of us will have done this at some time in our lives. The phenomenon was initially identified as a significant issue in a peer-reviewed study by Dr F Kroese and colleagues. In that study, the team noted that some people are prone to put off going to sleep when there are very few reasons to stay awake.
While some studies have focused on adolescence and their sleep procrastination habits, it is apparent that many adults are guilty of the practice too. Even when tired, a sleep-procrastinator will choose to remain awake, often into the small hours and even when they have an early start the next day.
Why procrastinate at bedtime?
The psychology of sleep procrastination seems to revolve around gaining control over nighttime hours. Do you ever feel like you are losing control of your daytime schedule and that more and more of your time is spent in activities that primarily benefit other people? Maybe your employer is asking more of you than they once did, or working from home is now blurring the lines between your secular time and your personal life? If this sounds familiar, then you are in the group of people who often start the habit of sleep procrastination.
In the same way that somebody with an eating disorder attempts to gain control over their lives through what they eat, a sleep-procrastinator will manipulate their nocturnal habits to feel a sense of control, even if this has a detrimental effect on their health. Choosing to play a computer game until the small hours or watching a series in one sitting are examples of this behaviour.
What about so-called nightbirds?
Some people function creatively at night. Some are nocturnal out of necessity; DJs, night shift workers and those who work with teams in other time zones often have to work very unsociable hours. Nevertheless, people in these groups are not necessarily sleep-procrastinators, even if the choice to work later is their own.
Many people are simply more creative at night. The term “evening chronotype” may not be familiar to you. Someone with an evening chronotype is more likely to work late. Although they are delaying sleep, this delay will most likely be for justifiable reasons and does not necessarily signify procrastination. As long as an individual establishes a regular sleep pattern and maintains a reasonable number of hours of sleep in 24 hours, then a tendency to work later can still be deemed healthy.
That said, sleep procrastination may still develop in those who prefer to work late. So what are the drivers, and are there signs that there may be a problem?
What Are the Signs of Bedtime Procrastination?
Sleep procrastination can manifest in two distinct ways. First, we may delay getting into bed. This form is known as bedtime procrastination. The second form is where we get into bed but then put off going to sleep or in bed procrastination. It may be that we engage in one or other of these behaviours, or possibly a mixture of both.
Some of the signs of sleep procrastination include:
- Forcing ourselves to stay awake.
- Increased use of technology once in bed.
- Binge-watching or online gaming into the early hours of the morning is often seen in procrastinators.
- An increased tendency to scroll timelines on social media with no apparent purpose is another common symptom.
Is sleep procrastination harmful?
Insufficient sleep is destructive to our physical and mental well-being. Consistent lack of sleep can trigger problems for us, even if we are otherwise healthy. Cardiovascular issues and diabetes are both linked to a lack of sleep. Being overtired can affect our productivity and diminish our concentration too. While these side effects are not necessarily a danger to us physically, they can drastically affect our ability to work, study, and interact with others.
A lack of sleep is a contributory factor to depression and anxiety. Increased anxiety can also lead to further sleeping issues. We can find ourselves in a cycle of unhealthy sleep behaviours. Insomnia due to stress adds to the adverse effects of sleep procrastination.
How To Prevent Sleep Procrastination?
The best remedy for sleep procrastination is healthy sleep hygiene. If we are slipping into habits that could lead to sleep procrastination, we should take positive steps to improve our behaviour. Positive practices which contribute to better sleep include:
- Keeping a consistent bedtime and wake-up time.
- Avoiding caffeine late in the afternoon or evening is a great help.
- Reducing alcohol intake makes a big difference in sleep quality.
- Ceasing the use of electronic devices, including laptops, cell phones and tablets, at least an hour before we go to bed is a healthy choice.
- Creating an effort pact such as connecting our router to a timer that switches the internet off at a given time makes internet use an effort after bedtime.
- The use of natural supplements for healthy sleep is recommended.
Luna & Leaf is building a healthy sleep community. We invest in exciting content, such as our five-minute meditation tracks, which can be used before bedtime to quieten the mind. Improved sleep is one of the demonstrable effects of supplements such as CBD oil too. Great days always follow good nights. By taking the time to create a healthy bedtime routine, limiting the use of technology and ensuring that our work-life balance is also reasonable, we are less likely to succumb to the temptation of sleep procrastination.
Luna & Leaf