Sleep Procrastination Might Be Stealing Precious Hours of Rest From You—Here's How to Stop It
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Sleep procrastination—also known as bedtime procrastination—is exactly what it sounds like: the decision to put off going to bed when there's no external reason to. (When we say external reason, we mean injuries, illnesses, and emergencies that might keep you up later than intended.)
Sleep procrastination can take the form of a few minutes or several hours. And while these isolated incidents may leave you feeling tired the next day, over time, they can contribute to sleep deprivation.
Most of us understand the value of a good night's sleep. Sleep supports everything from physical health to proper brain function. And it can help us boost our immune systems, reduce our risk of certain chronic health problems, and otherwise keep ourselves in tip-top shape.
Many of us want to get the CDC's recommended seven hours of sleep each night. The problem is that temptations like Instagram and Netflix keep us from pulling it off!
The easiest way to ensure you get enough sleep each night? Have a set bedtime and a set wake-up time that you stick to. If specific times feel too rigid, you could always give yourself a bedtime and wake-up window. It is very important to keep a consistent sleep schedule.
Of course, it is nearly impossible to go to sleep at the same exact time each night. But keeping within a one- to two-hour window for both going to sleep and waking up is the most effective. Just be sure not to use the flexibility as an excuse to indulge in some sleep procrastination.
If you already have a set sleep routine, figure out what's keeping you from it. What is it that's keeping you up at night? Is it work, TV, conversations with friends—or something else entirely? Once you understand what the problem-causers are, you can build boundaries around them.
Many of us know that the blue light emitted from our devices can disrupt our Circadian rhythms, affecting our ability to fall and stay asleep. But screen time may be affecting your sleep schedule in other ways, too. The activity you're procrastinating sleep for could be an app on your phone, a show on your TV, or even work on your computer, so consider setting boundaries around screen time. Rohrscheib recommends ending screen time at least one hour before bedtime, and Avena recommends keeping electronics out of the bedroom entirely.
Good sleep starts with a good foundation: your bed. Knowing you have a comfortable, supportive and high-quality bed like the Sleep Number 360 smart bed waiting for you will finally make you want to dive into bed every night.
Make up a bedtime routine you can follow every night.
You can read, meditate, journal, stretch, listen to some relaxing music, or engage in some other low-energy activity you love. You'll want to start this ritual about 30 minutes before bedtime. And while it may take a little getting used to, don't be surprised if you come to love it.
One of the reasons you might keep pushing back bedtime? You want to feel like there's more time in your day. (This is called revenge bedtime procrastination.)
But taking breaks earlier in the day can give you that same feeling of control and free time—without disrupting your sleep schedule—so try to carve out pockets of free time where you can.
Set aside quality time for yourself early enough in the day that you don't have to cut into your sleep hours. And if you have a really busy schedule, look for places where you can save time.
One good rule of thumb? Keep your bedroom reserved for sleep and sex only. Working in bed can decrease your quality of sleep, because it will become more and more difficult for your brain to distinguish between workspace and rest space. So keep work out of the bedroom whenever possible. Worrying, working, and even not sleeping in bed is best avoided.
If stress is keeping you up at night, take steps to minimize your worries before climbing in bed at night. Make a to-do list of the things you'd like to achieve the next day so you don't stress about them at night,.
The brain quickly makes associations between your actions and your environment. So keeping stress out of the bedroom can be just as important as keeping work out of the bedroom.
Remembering how great it feels to get enough sleep can make it easier to curb your procrastination habit. It helps to track this, so you can see the outcome of getting more rest. Track your mood and energy levels throughout the day—about every two to three hours. And be sure to pay attention to how you feel in the afternoon.
Consistency is key. So try to keep a consistent bedtime and wake-up time—even on the weekends. Sleep specialists recommend that you keep a consistent sleep schedule even on weekends and holidays. This is because our brains thrive on routine. If you do need to change up your schedule, stay within one hour of your usual bedtime and wake-up time whenever possible.
If you're having consistent trouble with sleep procrastination and it's affecting your quality of life, consider talking to a professional. Sleep procrastination can be a difficult habit to break. Don't be too hard on yourself if you're having trouble changing your routine.
But if you feel like you could use some extra help or guidance, remember that professionals are happy to provide it.
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