Bedtime Procrastination

You may think procrastination only applies to work and academics—like pushing that project forward in favor of a longer lunch—but researchers are now studying a new kind of procrastination.

And it happens in the bedroom.

In a study published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology, researchers from Utrecht University in the Netherlands have found that "bedtime procrastination" may be keeping many of us from getting sufficient shut-eye.

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In their paper, researchers define bedtime procrastination as “failing to go to bed at the intended time, while no external circumstances prevent a person from doing so.” The flu or a house party upstairs count as external circumstances, but those little chores or distractions that don’t need to be addressed before the hitting the hay don’t.

And unlike other forms of procrastination, which may have career or academic consequences, bedtime procrastination leads to fatigue during the day. When it comes to overall health, sleep deprivation can contribute to conditions like diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity, and depression, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Who’s Not Getting Enough Sleep?

More than one-quarter of the U.S. population report occasionally not getting enough sleep, and nearly 10 percent experience chronic insomnia, according to the CDC.

The Dutch study of 177 people found that certain characteristics like self-regulation and general procrastination contribute to the likelihood of bedtime procrastination. If you procrastinate during the day, you’re likely to procrastinate come bedtime.

For the average adult, the CDC recommends seven to nine hours of sleep per night.

Not hitting your recommended sleep quota can have scarier consequences than bags under your eyes. People who regularly sleep less than six hours a night are more likely to have a higher body mass index (BMI), a ratio of height to weight. Getting just two more hours of sleep could put you in the category of people with the lowest BMI, according to the Harvard Medical School's Division of Sleep Medicine.

Sleep deprivation can also contribute to heart disease, hypertension, weight gain, poor mood, and poor immune function. And it can lower life expectancy. According to the Harvard study, “[s]leeping five hours or less per night increased mortality risk from all causes by roughly 15 percent."

The impacts on health are tied to all the good things that happen in your body while you sleep. Adequate sleep allows your body to repair itself, rest, solidify memories, and secrete hormones that help control appetite and metabolism.

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How to Defeat Bedtime Procrastination

It will be easier to beat bedtime procrastination if you establish healthy sleep hygiene habits.

The National Sleep Foundation recommends avoiding naps, coffee, and alcohol close to bedtime, as well as not eating right before you sleep. They also suggest avoiding non-natural light, emotionally upsetting activities before bed, and using your bed as a living room couch. That means no TV watching in bed.

To improve your sleep, the foundation recommends establishing a regular sleep pattern, doing vigorous exercises in the morning or afternoon and relaxing exercises like yoga before bed, and making sure that your bed is comfortable. They also suggest checking to make sure that your bedroom is not too hot or cold, or too bright. 

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