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How to Stop Procrastinating at Bedtime and Actually Go to Sleep?

Ever found yourself saying, "Just one more episode," or "I'll scroll for just five more minutes," only to realize it's way past your bedtime? You're not alone. This habit of delaying sleep despite no external obstacles is known as bedtime procrastination. And yes, it's as widespread as the latest binge-worthy series on Netflix.

What’s so bad about pushing off sleep? 

Delaying sleep might seem good at the moment, but it exacts a hefty toll on our physical and mental well-being. The next day feels slow and hard. Energy levels? On the floor. Mood? Let's not even go there. And that's before we touch on the long-term health consequences, which range from mood swings to cardiovascular issues.

From a biological standpoint, staying up late triggers the body to produce more cortisol and adrenaline, the "stay awake" hormones, conflicting with our natural sleep-wake cycle. This hormonal imbalance can lead to:

  • Increased risk of chronic diseases such as obesity, diabetes, and hypertension.

  • Impaired immune function, making us more susceptible to infections.

  • Cognitive decline, including memory issues and difficulty concentrating.

  • Emotional disturbances, contributing to anxiety, depression, and irritability.

So, why do we do it?

The Quest for Control

First up, think about how packed our days are. If your schedule is full from morning to night, or if you're going through a stressful time, you might find yourself staying up late on purpose. It feels like the only time you can control what you do. After a day where every minute is planned for you, those quiet night hours become your little slice of freedom

The Guilty Pleasure

Ever noticed how your phone or laptop feels like a magnet at night? That's because every time we scroll through social media, watch an episode of our favorite show, or even sneak in some late-night online shopping, we get a tiny burst of happiness.

Scrolling and binge-watching trigger dopamine releases in the brain, a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure and reward, leading our brains to seek out these digital interactions for a quick dopamine 'fix.'

The 24/7 Shop

We should not be too hard on ourselves for this habit. It wasn't so long ago when our choices were limited, and waiting was just part of life—no instant streaming, no online shopping in the middle of the night. But now, everything we could want is just a click away, anytime. It's incredibly tempting and makes it so easy to keep watching, scrolling, and buying, even when we know we should be sleeping.

Tomorrow Aversion

And there's also this feeling of not wanting tomorrow to come. A study in 2023 found that many of us, especially young people working hard, stay up late because they're not looking forward to the next day. It's called "tomorrow aversion." It's like when you don't want the weekend to end, so you stay up late, trying to make it last longer.

Tomorrow aversion can be linked to anticipatory anxiety, a psychological term for the dread of future events. It's when you can't stop thinking about what's coming up and it makes it hard to chill out and go to sleep.

How to Combat Bedtime Procrastination?

So, we've got a problem. But what can we do about it? Fear not; I've got some strategies that might just help us reclaim our sleep.

  • Rethink "Me" Time Why wait till the end of the day to enjoy some personal time? Sprinkle little "me" moments throughout your day. A 10-minute walk, a quick meditation session, or even savoring your coffee can do wonders.

  • Streamline Your Nighttime Care Routine Simplify your bedtime routine by doing tasks like washing your face and brushing your teeth right after dinner. This small change can make going to bed feel easier and more seamless when you start feeling sleepy, eliminating the struggle of starting a routine when you're already tired.

  • Create a Sleep Sanctuary Make your bedroom about sleep and only sleep. Keep the tech out. Yes, that means no phones, no laptops. The blue light from screens messes with our melatonin levels, making it harder to fall asleep.

  • Embrace a Sleep Routine Bodies love routine. Try to hit the sack and wake up at the same time every day. Yes, even on weekends. It might sound like a drag now, but your body will thank you.

  • Listen to Your Body Our bodies are pretty smart. They give us cues when they're tired—yawning, heavy eyes. Listen to these signals. Hit the bed when you first start feeling tired, not three episodes later.

  • Wind Down Right Create a pre-sleep ritual that helps signal to your body it's time to wind down. Maybe it's a warm bath, some gentle yoga, or reading a book (the old-fashioned kind, not an e-reader).

  • Keep the Bedroom Cool and Dark Our bodies sleep best in a cool, dark environment. Consider investing in some blackout curtains and setting the thermostat to a comfortable, cool temperature.

  • Address Stress Sometimes, our late-night escapades are our way of coping with stress. Finding healthier ways to manage stress during the day can help ease the nighttime anxiety. Exercise, journaling, or talking to a friend can be great alternatives.

Wrapping Up

With these strategies in hand, we're not just fighting bedtime procrastination; we're embracing a journey towards healthier nights and brighter days ahead. Remember, every step towards better sleep is a step towards a happier, more energized you.


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