Night can become a time when people counterintuitively resist sleep. When you are feeling stressed or anxious, your mind is on alert that ‘something is wrong.’ Without a clear plan for how to address the problem, you may find yourself “doomscrolling” on social media, dwelling on relationship missteps, or snacking. Whether you call it sleep procrastination, revenge bedtime procrastination, or something else, the end result is staying up later than you intended. Often, the next morning is filled with exhaustion, grumpiness, and regret.
What causes sleep procrastination?
People often procrastinate with their sleep for reasons that seem to make sense in the moment. For instance, after a long day of work, sleep may feel less appealing than alternatives like watching another show on Netflix or texting with friends. It may also be challenging to sleep when someone is still ‘coming down’ physically and emotionally from intensive experiences. If you have ever tried to sleep immediately after a heated discussion, it is the same idea. Your mind and body tend to desire transition time to regulate themselves before sleep. Of course, for any person there may be a variety of other psychological, substance-related, and medical reasons why they have difficulty going to sleep.
Basic sleep and well-being tips may help with addressing the problem
One way to address sleep procrastination is to be proactive about your needs. Even if your time available is brief, prioritize your emotional needs before you go to bed. Do you need to schedule a few minutes to talk through your day with a partner? Can you carve out (and stick to!) time for a wind-down activity like showering or reading? Forcing yourself to go to bed without addressing your emotional needs can paradoxically backfire and lead to sleep procrastination.
Sleep specialists have long emphasized the importance of “sleep hygiene” for people with disorders like insomnia. Many sleep hygiene tips are useful for anyone having sleep difficulties. The more you institute a consistent sleeping routine that associates your bed with sleep, the more successful you may tend to be.
Questions to ask yourself include:
- Is my bedroom too hot, cold, noisy, or uncomfortable?
- Can I go to bed at a more consistent time every night?
- Does my caffeine or alcohol use disrupt my ability to wind down and sleep?
- During the day am I physically active and exposed to natural light?
- Am I using my bed for purposes other than sleep and sex?
Setting up your sleep environment and routine for the purpose of sleep allows your mind to more strongly expect sleep when you are in bed. If you are having ongoing difficulties with falling asleep, you might consider only going to bed when you feel sleepy. Unable to sleep after 15 minutes? Leave your bed to engage in non-stimulating activities, then enter bed again when you feel sleepy.
Sometimes sleep procrastination is part of a more serious sleep problem
The tips above are not intended to be professional advice for someone struggling with a clinical problem. If you are distressed about your sleep or concerned that it is significantly affecting your life negatively, it may be time to consult a professional.