Bedtime Procrastination: Why You Do It And How To Break It

Do you remember those childhood nights when you wished to stay up late like your parents did? The allure of one more game with your favorite toys, another episode of the cartoon you loved, would often necessitate a grown-up escort to your bedroom. It’s funny to think about it, but our habitual delaying of bedtime seemed to start early.

As we’ve grown older, this bedtime procrastination hasn’t ceased. In fact, it’s escalated. Can you relate to this? Plopped on the couch, eyes half-closed, one part of your brain screams that you should be sleeping, but the other part is whispering just one more episode, one more chapter, one more level on that game. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

Ever pondered why we knowingly indulge in this habit? Why do we continue to delay sleep, particularly when we’re fully aware of its importance, especially during late-night hours?

It turns out, we’re not alone in this bedtime battle. In a survey conducted with high school students, a significant 31% frequently hit the hay later than they intended. More surprisingly, a solid fifth of the students, 20.3%, reported they always end up sleeping later than planned.

Interestingly, most of this procrastination occurs while already in bed. The survey discovered that the culprits for our delayed sleep are the gadgets that share our sheets. We’re surfing YouTube videos, binge-watching TV shows or movies, engrossed in games, or glued to the rhythm of music. All of this while we should be drifting off to dreamland.

But this isn’t just a phenomenon among teenagers. A previous study shows a whopping 53.1% of young adults engage in bedtime procrastination. It’s a far-reaching habit, impacting a substantial number of us.

Bedtime procrastination isn’t a petty problem. It’s a widespread issue that needs attention and solutions, which we’ll delve into in this article. Let’s unravel the mystery behind this odd tendency and find practical ways to break the habit. Stay tuned, and hopefully, we’ll help you reclaim your bedtime.

What Is Bedtime Procrastination?

What exactly is bedtime procrastination? Let’s cut through the scientific jargon and get to the point.

As defined by researchers Kroese,

Bedtime procrastination is the habit of needlessly and voluntarily delaying going to bed, despite foreseeably being worse off as a result.

In simpler terms, it’s when you choose to stay up later than necessary, even when you know it’s going to bite you in the morning. You’re perfectly aware that the alarm will ring at 7am, that you’ve got a busy day ahead, but you push bedtime back, just a bit more. That’s bedtime procrastination for you.

But it’s not just about going to bed late. It’s about the ‘why’ behind it. The key characteristic here is the word ‘needlessly.’ You’re not up late because you’re working on a deadline or tending to a sick child. You’re up late because you choose to be, even when you know it’s not the best decision for your health and wellbeing.

So, we’re not talking about the unavoidable late nights here. Bedtime procrastination is about the ones you could prevent, the nights when you decide to keep scrolling through social media, watch another episode, or stay out just a bit longer with friends. It’s the voluntary delay that makes you groggy the next morning, robbing you of your productivity and mood.

The Causes of Bedtime Procrastination

What keeps us up when we should be hitting the sack? The answer, it turns out, is a mix of environmental factors, digital distractions, and our own psychological tendencies.

The World Around Us

Our environments and lifestyles often play a role in our sleeping patterns. Factors such as exposure to noise and light at night, unpredictable work shifts, and our daily routines can all contribute to pushing our bedtimes later than intended.

Digital Distractions

We can’t ignore the elephant in the room, or rather, the smartphone in our hands. As our world becomes increasingly digital, our screen time inevitably rises.

From binge-watching on Netflix to catching up on social media feeds, our devices serve as potent distractors. This growing screen time can displace sleep, leading to later bedtimes and shorter sleep durations.

Stress And Anxiety

But there’s more to bedtime procrastination than just bright lights and buzzing devices. Our own minds play a substantial role too.

When we’re stressed and anxious, we’re more likely to seek out activities that offer instant gratification, like scrolling through social media or diving into a game. This immediate reward often feels more appealing than going to sleep.

This tendency is tied to our self-control. When our self-regulation fails, we’re more susceptible to temptations and more likely to choose TV or internet surfing over sleep. We know we should sleep, but the lure of our digital devices is just too strong to resist.

Negative Emotions

We sometimes use bedtime procrastination as a form of avoidance or escapism. When we’re dealing with negative emotions, it’s tempting to drown them out with a distraction, to scroll or watch or play until we’re too tired to feel anything.

But while this might offer a temporary escape, it can lead to worse sleep and a harder tomorrow.

Understanding what causes our bedtime procrastination is not about blaming ourselves or our environments, but recognizing what’s happening so we can make changes.

Why Bedtime Procrastination Is Bad For You

Why is bedtime procrastination such a big deal? Isn’t it just a few late nights, a few groggy mornings? Not quite.

Bedtime procrastination can have a real, significant impact on our lives, affecting everything from our work efficiency to our physical health.

Hamper Your Productivity

Various studies have shown that lack of sufficient sleep can lead to reduced working efficiency. Simply put, the less sleep we get, the harder it is to concentrate, to solve problems, and to work effectively.

When we’re sleep-deprived, we’re not bringing our best selves to our jobs or our daily demands.

Drain Your Mental Energy

But it’s not just about productivity. Our mental health can also take a hit.

Staying up late night after night can increase our levels of stress, anxiety, and depression.

Our minds need rest just as much as our bodies do, and when they don’t get it, they can struggle.

Increase the Risk of Serious Health Issues

Finally, and perhaps most worryingly, bedtime procrastination can increase our risk of serious health issues.

Research has shown links between lack of sleep and a range of medical conditions, including obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. There’s even an increased risk of death.

While it might seem dramatic, the truth is that sleep is a fundamental aspect of our health, and neglecting it can have serious consequences.

Bedtime procrastination isn’t just a quirky habit. It’s a problem that can affect our work and our well being. But once we recognize it, we can do something about it.

Now, let’s dive into strategies to tackle these issues and reclaim our rightful sleep.

Breaking the Cycle: How to Overcome Bedtime Procrastination

How can we break the cycle of bedtime procrastination and get back our good night’s sleep? Here are some practical strategies you can try:

1. Establish a Consistent Bedtime Routine

Think back to your childhood. Many of us had bedtime routines that included a set sleep time, a story, or perhaps a lullaby. As adults, we can benefit from the same consistency.

Set a regular sleep schedule and try to stick to it. Design a pre-sleep routine that calms you and signals to your body that it’s time to rest. This could include reading, taking a warm bath, or some light stretching.

Take a look at this guide I’ve created to help you build a night routine: Night Routine Guide to Sleeping Better and Waking Up Productive

2. Manage Digital Distractions

Our digital devices are double-edged swords. They entertain, educate, and connect us, but they also distract and keep us awake.

Try to implement tech-free times or zones in your house, especially in the bedroom. Use apps or tools that limit screen time or switch your device to nighttime mode to reduce blue light exposure.

Here I’ve got some tips to help you unplug from tech distractions: How to Disconnect from Technology And Have More Personal Time

3. Stress and Anxiety Management Techniques

When stress and anxiety keep us up, we need to address them directly.

Relaxation exercises, such as deep breathing, yoga, or meditation, can help calm our minds and prepare us for sleep.

Another effective technique is journaling or doing a ‘brain dump‘ before bed. Writing down your worries, plans, or ideas can clear your mind and help you fall asleep easier.

4. Seek Support and Accountability

If bedtime procrastination is seriously affecting your health or daily performance, and you can’t seem to be able to quit the bad habit, seek support.

Talk to your family, friends, or partner about your struggle. Consider joining a support group or seeking professional help if needed.

Final Thoughts

Don’t just read this and move on. Reflect on your own habits. Identify the causes of your bedtime procrastination, and start making changes.

Whether it’s developing a bedtime routine, switching off your devices, or journaling before sleep, each step you take will bring you closer to better sleep and better overall well-being.

Breaking the cycle of bedtime procrastination won’t happen overnight, but every effort you make, every new habit you form, is a step in the right direction. And the rewards—a clearer mind, a more energetic body, a more productive and satisfying life, are worth it.

Featured photo credit: Jp Valery via

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