I often stay up too late. There is always one more email to write, one more dish to wash, one more episode of Parenthood to watch. Like a lot of parents, I crave some time to myself after the kids go to bed. I am a sleep procrastinator. I wasn’t actually aware that sleep procrastination is a “real thing” until I Googled it. There was study published in Frontiers in Psychology last year 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 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 versions of stalling. We do it to ourselves and then pay the price the next day.
Most of us don’t dislike sleep. So, why do we resist going to bed? You might be staying up because of:
- Video games
- Internet or social media
- House work
- 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 in all through the night. It’s likely that our ability to resist Netflix and video games weakens as the evening wears on.
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 mid-night. When are we supposed to have downtime? I would propose that sleep procrastination is the result of our overworking.
The problem, of course, is that we need sleep. I’m a big believer that adequate sleep is essential of good physical and emotional health. Lack of sleep leaves us irritable, unfocused, and underperforming.
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 is 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. Once the routine is set, it will be easier to get to bed on time.
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