Many times, you might find yourself staying up late even when you are tired and it's time for bed. This happens because after a long and busy day at work, school or college, there’s only a little time for yourself and there are still many things you want to complete, before shutting off.
Researchers from Netherlands (Kroese et al,2014) have called this “bedtime procrastination”, and call it “failing to fall asleep at the intended time, even when no external circumstances prevent a person from doing so”.This will affect the next day as you will be awake.
Late nights followed by early mornings will lead to bad sleep deprivation and will have deeper impacts on mental, physical, and emotional health with short- and long-term consequences. Insufficient sleep would hamper the thinking patterns and decision-making of an individual. Sleep deprivation would directly raise the risk of daytime sleepiness, which will in turn harm productivity and academic achievement while also raising the risk of drowsy driving.
You are more likely to get involved in this whole process of bedtime procrastination if you get little time for yourself throughout the day or have a specific number of tasks before going to sleep. Other reasons include difficulty in managing time and tasks and inability to resist temptations which will lead to delay in going to bed. It may also arise when you have had a great deal of a workday and now all you require time is for remaining quiet and peaceful.
Some of the strategies that might help you tackle bedtime procrastination are:
Identify time-wasters in your day
The foremost step to carry out is asking yourself about the specific time-wasters that help in identifying and eliminating them, which gives you more room in the day and more control over the time. Look at the whole day and ask yourself what is preventing you from achieving that sleep schedule. Look at yourself, watch out for your routine. Ask yourself why is this happening to you? Make a note of the activities that you have been doing instead of sleeping. If possible, schedule them earlier in the day and time it well. Alter your expectations and spread these tasks out over the week if everything gets too accumulated at night.
Put the electronic devices away
Stay away from electronic devices before bedtime since the light can disturb the sleep cycle. Switch off the laptop at night and schedule time away from binge-watching shows. Put the phone away or put it on a mode that won't disturb you with the notifications. Instead try setting alarms or timers to switch off, or silence these devices at a scheduled time every day.
Set a fixed sleep schedule
Decide on a regular sleeping time and make sure that you get at least 7 to 8 hours of sleep every day, also keep it consistent even on the weekends. Over time, the body will eventually get used to bedtime. You should not pressurise yourself by just keeping a specific time, instead opt for a window of one hour.
Let yourself unwind
Sometimes you have to set up for yourself a regular and relaxing bedtime routine. It could include taking a hot bath, listening to relaxing music, or maybe unwinding by reading. This routine will help you prepare for sleep, as well as detaching yourself from other activities that might prevent you from sleeping.
Work on healthy sleep habits
Focus on better sleep hygiene. Avoiding alcohol, caffeine, tobacco, late in the afternoon or evening will help you relax. Sleeping in a dark, quiet, and comfortable room, and just use your bed primarily for sleep. You should avoid working on your bed or all other activities out of your bedroom, at least away from your bed. Try to avoid having heavy meals just before bedtime, and also avoid alcohol two to three hours before your scheduled bedtime.
Increase your motivation
Identify why you want to go to bed on time. You can also visualise your future self and remind yourself that sleep is a top priority for you, and acknowledge and reward your progress.
Occasionally staying up too late working for your deadline, or scrolling through social media, or just talking to friends isn’t anything out of the ordinary. But regularly putting off sleep will leave you groggy during the day and also impact your overall health.
No one “gets used” to little sleep, contrary to many popular notions. Depriving the body of the much-needed rest will take a toll on your health eventually. We all have things that we miss out on when we have packed schedules, but finding time to take care of ourselves should not be on that list. If you tend to struggle with getting a good night’s sleep, feel free to reach out for help.