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Overcoming Sleep Procrastination

A woman scrolls through her phone in bed in the dark before going to sleep

Most of us know that we should be sleeping at least seven hours every night. But the demands on our time are many and the hours in a day are few. Work and family responsibilities gobble up so much of our days, it can be hard to squeeze in any “me” time.

For many, the solution is sleep procrastination, also known as “revenge bedtime procrastination.” That’s when we try to carve out a little time for ourselves at the end of the day, even though we know it means we’ll miss out on getting enough sleep.

Reminder: Sleep Matters

Insufficient sleep is bad for our health, causing:

  • Slower thinking
  • Inattention to detail
  • Memory problems
  • Poor decision making
  • Increased stress and irritability

Over time, sleep deprivation can increase our risk of:

  • Heart disease
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • A weakened immune system
  • Anxiety
  • Depression

It can literally increase our likelihood of dying prematurely, regardless of the cause.

The Scope Of the Problem

One recent study found that 74 percent of people go to bed later than they planned at least once a week. And the pandemic seems to have made this problem even worse.

In a 2021 survey commissioned by Philips, more than 13,000 people from 13 different countries were interviewed about their sleep behaviors.

  • 37 percent said stress about COVID-19 is negatively affecting their sleep.
  • 84 percent use their phones in bed, versus 74 percent in 2020.
  • 46 percent admitted that looking at their phones was the last thing they did every night before falling asleep.

Of these 46 percent:

  • 73 percent spent those last minutes of the day on social media.
  • 41 percent were reading news about the pandemic.

These findings show how common sleep procrastination is. They also suggest some solutions.

Work-Life Balance

Remember when we used to physically leave work? And once we got home, barring an emergency or some huge deadline, the rest of the day was ours? Now that our coworkers can reach us 24/7, technology has blurred the line between working and not working.

And the pandemic has eroded that boundary even more. Now our “offices” are in our living or dining rooms — or, even worse, our bedrooms. We may feel like we never really get to sign off for the day.

Then when caregiving is added into the mix — whether it’s for our children, our parents or grandparents, or another loved one — what time is left for us?

We need to build downtime into our schedules in order to avoid burnout. It’s OK to be off duty for part of the day, and to not work during time we’ve set aside for play!

Kicking The Phone Out Of Bed

It’s so easy to get sucked into “doomscrolling” (compulsively reading bad news) before going to sleep. Or catching up on social media, texting with friends, or watching that new show everyone’s talking about. Next thing we know, a half hour has gone by…an hour…an hour and a half…and our sleep suffers the consequences.

We need to work on our sleep hygiene. We need consistent bedtimes, preceded by activities that calm our minds and make us sleepy. And if that means turning off our phones or leaving them in another room, so be it.

The Sweetest Revenge

Many people engage in “revenge bedtime procrastination” like it’s an act of defiance. Like teenagers reading with a flashlight after lights-out. But we really only punish ourselves.

Here’s a better way to have the last laugh: Let’s claim our “me” time during the day or evening, before bedtime. And also get the sleep we need to stay healthy. Then we’ll be happier, healthier, and more productive.

So there!

Moss Stern

About Moss Stern

I work for Independence Blue Cross as a senior copywriter. I enjoy building the company’s relationship with its members through communications that are clear and personal. When I’m not at work, I’m writing rock songs and singing in a band, collaborating on a musical adaptation of a well-known comedy play, and trying to parent two teenagers who are much cleverer than I am. My pronouns are “she” and “her.”