I am guilty of this. Sleep procrastination or revenge bedtime procrastination. The act of staying up late doing something like watching TV, scrolling the phone, or playing video games even though you are tired and know you should go to bed.
Why do we do this to ourselves? I mean we all know getting more sleep is going to make us feel better the next day and that whatever we are doing is most likely not important or could at least wait until tomorrow.
A few factors are at play here. The first is about control. Let’s face it most of the day you are having to be reactive to situations and not feeling completely in control of yourself. There is the work environment dealing with bosses, employees, and customers. If you are a parent, you are tending to your offspring making sure they are fed, clean, and safe. Bam, before you know it the day is over, it’s 10:00pm and you finally have a moment to yourself.
It is quiet in the house. You finally get you time. So what do you do? You indulge in those Netflix shows, checkout Instagram, and just relax. You are now in control. Why would you want to give that up to go to bed? That sounds so boring and damn it you deserve it to have some time to yourself. The trade off, because there is always a trade off, is you reduce your sleep time and quality.
At night you don’t feel it, you are running off of dopamine and are entertained/distracted. The next day, though you are grabbing that extra coffee at Starbucks, or making a few mistakes at work which gets your boss on your case, or perhaps the kids have blasted through your patience by 9:00am.
Study after study shows low sleep quality and sleep deprivation leaves us more emotional, reactive, and prone to mistakes. A negative feedback loop becomes activated. After a crappy day, what is the one thing you want to do? Hit the couch, grab a glass of wine, and veg. But this just sets the stage for another day like before. Lather, rinse, repeat. Classic sleep procrastination.
Like mentioned above, dopamine is the other factor in play. Dopamine is your feel good neurotransmitter. Your brain releases it to keep you doing something. Each notification on your phone triggers a small hit of dopamine. Or that cliff hanger, on the show you were watching that you just NEED to watch the next one.
Dopamine unfortunately is excitatory. This is how you can get lost in one of these activities and when you look up 2 hours have passed and it is midnight. Now you may still be able to fall right asleep due to being physically tired. There is a hangover effect though on the quality of your sleep. You are going to be more prone to getting only light sleep as your brain waves are operating at a higher frequency due to the dopamine and neural stimulation from whatever you were doing.
What is one to do? Once in a while there is nothing wrong with this scenario. It is when this scenario becomes your normal that you need to work in some new tools.
The best tool for handling sleep procrastination is a power down hour. During this hour, electronics are off and out of the room. Pick some other calm/boring activity.
-reading a real book, not e-reader these still impact sleep quality
– stretching or light yoga
– coloring, puzzling, drawing
– listening to a podcast (I know this is electronic, but it does not involve staring at a screen)
– take care of all your pre-bedtime chores
Try it out for a week and see how you feel. The body needs time to adjust.