Is Sleep Procrastination Keeping You Up?

Heather R. Huhman

A recent study found that procrastination affects not only our daily activities, but also our sleep patterns and, as a result, our health. Scientists from Utrecht University in the Netherlands surveyed 177 men and women about their sleep habits, lifestyles and procrastination levels. Their findings, published in Frontiers in Psychology, suggest that “bedtime procrastination” is a more widespread, harmful problem than anyone thought.

Bedtime procrastination is characterized by an individual’s failure to go to bed at the intended time, even though no external circumstances prevent them from doing so. Even after one night, it “can lead to decreased cognitive function, trouble concentrating, headaches and general moodiness,” says Dr. M. Safwan Badr, former president of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM).

Because even a single night of bedtime procrastination can seriously affect your ability to function, it’s important to eliminate activities and distractions that can keep you up or tossing and turning through the wee hours.

So, how can we avoid bedtime procrastination and the issues it causes? Here are four proactive strategies to help you get to bed on time:

1. Keep Your Eyes off Screens

When scientists researched the sleep habits of current pre-industrial societies living in Africa and Bolivia, they found that nearly no one suffered from insomnia. In fact, they found that the people in these cultures nearly never napped, or set any sort of designated sleep schedule. And although there are probably many reasons for this, one is likely that there are less technological distractions available to pre-industrial peoples.

There is plenty of research that shows reading on screens before bed negatively affects sleep. Watching exciting programs before bed may cause you to “stay up longer, and be more engaged, than is ideal for [your] schedule,” suggests Dr. Badr. Combine an overstimulated brain with the light and volume variations the TV produces, and you have a recipe for sleepless nights.

For the best sleep hygiene, Dr. Badr suggests using your bed for sleeping and sex only, and that you avoid “watching TV late at night so you have enough time to conduct a wind-down routine …that doesn’t involve any screens.”

Watching television before or in bed can disrupt sleep, but coupling that with the auto-play feature of streaming services like Hulu, Netflix and Amazon Prime can be very unhealthy. Binge-watching your favorite show can be a great way to spend a rainy Saturday, but it should be avoided before bedtime.

If you absolutely have to log on to one of these services before bed, disable auto-play to make sure you’ll get to sleep on time.

Likewise, do your best to avoid looking at any screens for at least 90 minutes before going to bed. Trade in your Kindle or iPad for a real book while you’re in bed to sleep more restfully through the night.

2. Set a Routine

Dr. Badr notes that over the long-term, “sleep deprivation can result in significant impairments in cognitive and motor performance,” which increase the risk of automobile, work-related and fatal accidents. Building a wind-down routine for the hours before you go to bed can help you avoid sleep deprivation and the bad habits that cause it.

Select a time at which you’ll go to bed every night and create a routine for how you’ll spend your last hour before bed. Make sure the activities you “schedule” relate to sleeping and help you wind down.

For a truly effective sleep routine, Dr. Badr suggests keeping “a regular sleep schedule, as you would for your child,” and “making your bedroom quiet, dark, and a little bit cool” before bed.

3. Get a Real Alarm Clock

Yes, the one on your phone works, but having your phone next to your bed might entice you to check one more message or answer one more email, stimulating your brain and keeping you awake longer. If you need to use your phone as an alarm, says Dr. Badr, “keep the phone beyond arms reach” to help you avoid the urge to check email or browse apps.

4. Practice Meditation/Mindfulness

The evening is a great time to reflect on the day you’ve had and to clear your mind of any concerns or stressors. Take time before bed to meditate or try out these 3 helpful yoga poses for beginners.

23 Responses to "Is Sleep Procrastination Keeping You Up?"
  • Extra Mile Staff | April 17, 2019 at 11:42 am

    Hi Maria, this is a great idea for those that find their eyes growing tired while reading at night. Thanks for the advice!

  • Extra Mile Staff | April 17, 2019 at 11:37 am

    Thanks for sharing your experience, Kerrill! This can definitely help others while falling asleep.

  • maria espinosa | April 16, 2019 at 11:45 pm

    I love to read in the morning...but at night a different energy arises. Reading print at night makes me restless. However, watching a relaxing movie on my laptop with earphones relaxes me...gets my mind off current problems, concerns. exs: Madmen, The Amazing Mrs. Maisel, a movie last night called "Juanita." Not violent films before bed.

  • Kerrill | April 16, 2019 at 5:45 pm

    I have Audible on my Kindle Fire. I listen to my current book, but set timer for 15 or 30 minutes, depending on my state of relaxation. I almost always fall asleep before the timer turns Audible off. This has really helped. No lights, no falling asleep with a book in hand this losing my place, and my sleep is good.

  • Extra Mile Staff | April 15, 2019 at 8:06 pm

    Thanks for sharing, Jan!

  • Mary Brown | April 15, 2019 at 6:46 pm

    My entire family with the exception of my mother are "night people". I am nonfunctional before 12:00 noon. My goal is to sleep by 4:00 a.m. and sleep until 12:00. Getting up earlier is a waste of time because I just can't seem to get it together. I'm retired now but when I was working, I chose the second shift, 3-11:30. When I do have insomnia, unable to sleep at all, reading does help. I may try the biblical passages that have been suggested. I reality is that I will never be a in bed by 11 and up at 8 a.m. person. The reason for writing this is to remind the world that some of us are by nature, night owls.

  • Extra Mile Staff | April 15, 2019 at 6:03 pm

    Thanks for reading, Pam!

  • Jack (john) Miller | April 13, 2019 at 11:17 pm

    Very helpful tips, but I am having no problem going to sleep.

  • Beverly Fleming | April 13, 2019 at 3:03 pm

    This isn't the first time I've heard this information so I will definitely take it to heart. I have a love for books and I read every day (not just on my phone). I will make some changes starting today (baby steps) by limiting my screen time on all devices. I usually talk to God while I'm lying in bed and I recite Bible passages because I do sometimes suffer from sleep issues. Excellent article and I appreciate all the feedback.

  • Yolanda Snyder | April 13, 2019 at 1:57 pm

    In my personal life I need to sleep minimum 7 hours a day to feel fresh and ready for work

  • Jan Jones | April 13, 2019 at 1:53 pm

    When I retired, I moved to another town, changed my sleeping habits. I go to bed around the same time every night, 10 - 10.30pm, I do not have a tv in my bedroom and I do not have my iPad or iPhone with me. I get into bed and go to sleep, usually sleep through the night, I have been doing this for 8 years and it works!!...well, for me...great advise...thanks

  • Pam | April 13, 2019 at 2:04 am

    I am pretty good at most of these tips but find lately I have gotten a little lax, and it shows in my sleep quality. Thank you all for your great suggestions.

  • Sue Hmmock | April 12, 2019 at 1:15 am

    First, I thank God for all my blessings and help he gave me today, then I pray for those on my prayer list, then I pray for things I need his guidance on, to help me make right decisions. Then I pray for whomever, whatever pops into my mind (i.e. storm victims, floods, mud slides, missing people. countries in trouble, world peace, etc.} I often go to sleep while finishing my prayers.

  • Willie Birch | April 11, 2019 at 4:49 pm

    I read the 91st psalm before I go to bed each night.

  • Sabah Tahir | April 11, 2019 at 2:51 pm

    I found this very helpful, and some of the noted suggestions are exactly the kinds of behavior i too practice. I am going to make a conscious effort to try to wind down, not have my screen on late or lower the lights, as i am not comfortable sleeping in the dark since i was a child. Thank you for this information.

  • Voltaire Theodore | April 11, 2019 at 2:17 pm

    Good advices!

  • Herbert Martin | April 11, 2019 at 12:15 am

    Good information! I too have used the Lord's prayer and the 23rd Psalm. I read good western books by authors like Louis lemour, sometimes falling asleep very soon.

  • Jean Husbands | April 10, 2019 at 6:27 pm

    The one and only thing that gets me to sleep is to read before I go to bed. I fall asleep immediately when I do this.

  • Extra Mile Staff | April 10, 2019 at 6:02 pm

    Thank you for reading, Martha!

  • Martha C. Rodrigue | April 10, 2019 at 2:55 pm

    Plan to read a book an avoid phone. Already have a set time for bedtime when tv is off. Good suggestions.

  • Ernest Thomas | April 10, 2019 at 2:37 pm

    Thank you I will try this. I'm moody now though from lack of sleep.

  • Pamela Marie Bruschi | April 10, 2019 at 1:33 pm

    Excellent information to help with sleep. I always find prayers help when I have trouble falling asleep. Sometimes saying the Lord’s Prayer over and over and over until I’m asleep.

  • Helen Hunt | October 13, 2017 at 3:16 pm

    Very timely article. I have already started practicing these routines and know that they do work. A lesson learned late in life.

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