Sleep Procrastination Might Be Stealing Precious Hours of Rest From You—Here's How to Stop It
Sleep procrastination might sound like a weird term—after all, who would want to procrastinate something as lovely as sleep? But the truth is, many of us do procrastinate sleep. We push back our bedtimes to catch one more episode of that show we're binge-watching, or to scroll through Instagram one more time. And while these moments may seem small and unimportant, over time, they can really add up.
"Sleep is like a bank account, and it takes time to build up and time to deplete," says Alex Dimitriu, MD, founder of Menlo Park Psychiatry & Sleep Medicine. "Chronic sleep deprivation builds up to moodiness, depression, irritability, more anxiety, less impulse control … and worse, memory."
Hearing that, it's pretty clear sleep procrastination is a bad thing. So why do we keep doing it—and how can we stop? We talked to the experts to find out.
What is sleep procrastination?
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.
"Sleep loss has many short- and long-term negative effects on your health and well-being," says Chelsie Rohrscheib, PhD, sleep specialist at Tatch, an at-home sleep analysis tool, including an increased risk for some health conditions (like diabetes, depression, and heart attacks).
We know sleep procrastination is bad—so why do we keep doing it?
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. But temptations like Instagram and Netflix keep us from pulling it off. Why?
"Life can be busy and very stressful," says Nicole Avena, PhD, a neuroscientist and author. "If you are not finding time to yourself during the day, you may not feel fulfilled and will want to reclaim that time during the night, after all of your obligations are complete." Rohrscheib agrees, noting that sleep procrastinators tend to fall into one of two categories: busy people who need a little more free time, and so-called overachievers who sacrifice sleep to keep working.
Plus, saying no to Instagram requires discipline—and after a long day, that effort may be hard to summon. "Sleep procrastination is like any other procrastination or binging behavior—[it's] easier to watch one more video or eat one more cookie than to go to bed (the responsible thing to do)," Dr. Dimitriu says. "Some people are so responsible by day [that] they just run out of being responsible at night." (Experts call this ego depletion—and it's a hotly debated topic in the psychology space.)
How to stop procrastinating and (finally) go to sleep
Dos and don'ts of sleep hygiene for less sleep procrastination
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