The actual phrase "bedtime procrastination" might be new to you. But chances are you can guess exactly what it is, because you probably do it all the time.
If you've ever stayed up past your intended bedtime to watch TV, scroll social media, go into the kitchen for a late-night snack or literally do anything other than just go to sleep, you've engaged in bedtime procrastination. It's a little act of self-rebellion that you know you'll pay for in the morning, but do anyway because, hey, you deserve some time to just chill and fun.
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"Nighttime is often the only time we have for downtime. It feels really good to indulge in that non-work/non-family thing and do something you enjoy," says Charissa Chamorro, PhD, a New York-based clinical psychologist specializing in anxiety and sleep issues. Doing whatever before bed also gives you a sense of control, which, after dealing with your usual obligations all day, can be really satisfying.
"It feels good to do something that we choose to do rather than something we are required to do," Chamorro says.
The problem, of course, is that you end up shortchanging yourself on the sleep front, clocking fewer hours of high-quality shut-eye. And that can have real consequences: There's a moderate positive association between pushing bedtime back and being fatigued the next day, per a December 2022 systematic review in Sleep Medicine Reviews. Bedtime procrastinating also ups the odds that you end up snoozing later than planned in the morning, which can mess with your sleep-wake cycle and make it harder to fall asleep on time the next night.
But you knew all this. The real question is: What can you actually do to fight that procrastination urge and just go to bed on time? If you're ready to make a change, these strategies can help.
Commit to Doing Better Because ___
If you want to start going to bed on time for real, think about your why.
"Tying your goals to your values is a powerful motivator," Chamorro says. "In this case, it can remind you that your bedtime is your choice." In other words? When you decide to stay up late for no good reason, the one who loses out most is you.
Chamorro recommends writing down your top three values and identifying how sleep is related to them. For instance, if you value family, getting enough sleep helps you be more present when you're spending time with them. If you value staying fit and healthy, logging adequate snooze-time gives you the energy you need to get through your workouts.
Plan Time for You During the Day
Most of us end up procrastinating at bedtime because we feel like there's no time to relax or have fun during the day. So make some! "Just 15 minutes of scheduled personal time per day can make it easier to commit to going to bed when you need to," Chamorro says.
Wake Up Earlier
Having your alarm go off 15 to 30 minutes earlier does two things.
First, it gives you a built-in slot for you time. "You can replace your evening leisure time and give yourself something to look forward to in the morning," Chamorro says.
And second, it'll up the odds that you get into bed when you're supposed to. "If you wake up earlier, you'll have a stronger drive to sleep at night, which will make it easier to choose sleep over other evening activities," Chamorro says.
Keep Your Devices Out of Your Room
Most of us are putting off bedtime in favor of just spending time on our phones, according to an April 2020 study in the journal Sleep. In some cases, simply taking it out of the equation might make your sleep space boring enough to just turn the lights out.
"Set an alarm one hour before bedtime," Chamorro recommends. "When the alarm goes off, put your phone on airplane mode and move on to more relaxing activities." How about a bedtime power hour or some gentle stretching?
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