Bedtime procrastination - why you stay up when you're tired

Bedtime procrastination – why you stay up when you’re tired

Bedtime procrastination is a name given by Dutch researchers into the phenomenon that can make us literally too tired to go to bed and sleep. But can we do anything to help ourselves get the rest that we need?

The team from Utrecht University looked at how procrastination might affect peoples’ health choices.  Most health choices are decisions whether to do something (exercise, eat a particular meal).  Sleep is very different though, as it isn’t about “whether” to sleep or not, but “when” to sleep.

Unsurprisingly people who tend to put off or avoid other activities during the day will tend to put off going to sleep as well.  They also go on to report more sleep problems such as insufficient sleep, disturbed sleep patterns, and tiredness during the day.

What isn’t clear is which came first – the tiredness from deciding not to go to bed, or the poor decision making from the tiredness.  What is clear though is the effect of poor sleep on people’s physical and mental health – making people more susceptible to conditions from diabetes to depression.

So how to break the cycle of putting off going to bed when making the effort seems too much compared to sitting on the settee watching TV?

The best way is to make sure that you get enough rest during the day.  This needs to start early in your day, and before you actually feel the need for a break.  If you’re stopping because you’re tired the essentially you’ve left it too late.

Stopping before you feel like it is only half the answer though.  The other half is to take a number of short breaks, rather than fewer longer breaks.  These will have a much better effect on your tiredness and stamina.

You might even think about taking a power nap in the afternoon, depending on how tired you are and how long you need to carry on for.  The final answer though is one of the basic rules of sleep hygiene – maintaining the same times for going to bed and for getting up in the morning.


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