Sleep Procrastination and How to Break the Habit

Looking at electronics instead of going to bed

Sleep Procrastination: Understanding the Causes and Solutions

Discover why we engage in sleep procrastination and learn effective strategies to overcome it. Here are ten common causes of sleep procrastination:

  1. Stress from daily procrastination
  2. Addiction to social media, email, and news
  3. Fear of thoughts and feelings
  4. Bedtime procrastination habit
  5. Desire to take advantage of nighttime creativity and productivity
  6. Poor sleep hygiene; no bedtime routine
  7. Overstimulation close to bedtime
  8. The desire for “me time”
  9. A compulsion to complete tasks
  10. Avoidance of facing tomorrow

Addressing the root cause of sleep procrastination is key to improving sleep hygiene and well-being. First of all, let’s remember that true sleep/bedtime procrastination is not a matter of simply avoiding insomnia or difficulty sleeping, although it may be a consideration in some cases. Here’s how we can help:

Cause #1: Daily Procrastination Stress

Solution: Plan, prioritize, and reward task completion.

When we procrastinate on tasks such as paying bills or working on projects, we often add them to the end of our day, leading to sleep procrastination. This results in less sleep, grogginess, reduced efficiency, and more task procrastination, causing more sleep procrastination.

Cause #2: Social Media, Email, and News Addiction

Solution: Set specific times and balance with positive news.

The excitement we feel when we receive a response or notification from social media or email, or when watching the news about politicians, can stimulate the brain and lead to dopamine bursts in the pleasure center that keep us awake and encourage addictive behavior.

Cause #3: Fear of Thoughts and Feelings

Solution: Establish mindfulness practices and seek counseling.

Unresolved stressful, sad, or angry thoughts and feelings can surface at bedtime, leading to sleep procrastination. Avoiding them can cause them to worsen.

Cause #4: Bedtime Procrastination Habit

Solution: Replace with healthier sleep routines.

A habitual behavior that involves putting off bedtime can cause sleep procrastination.

Cause #5: Nighttime Creativity and Productivity

Solution: Schedule creative time and practice balance.

Individuals who are most creative or productive at night may feel pressure to take advantage of that time and delay bedtime, leading to sleep procrastination.

Cause #6: Poor Sleep Hygiene; No Bedtime Routine

Solution: Establish a consistent bedtime routine. **I address how to establish good sleep hygiene below this list.**

Establishing a consistent bedtime routine is crucial for proper sleep hygiene. It signals to our bodies that it’s time to unwind and prepares our minds for relaxation.

Without a routine, bedtime procrastination becomes common, and our minds struggle to settle. Checking social media, watching stimulating content, or consuming caffeine before bed can hinder sleep. To ensure a restful night, prioritize a consistent routine and cultivate healthy habits.

Cause #7: Overstimulation Close to Bedtime

Solution: Avoid overstimulation and create a relaxing bedtime routine.

Overstimulation before bed disrupts sleep quality. Activities like checking social media, watching exciting shows, and consuming caffeine stimulate the brain, signaling wakefulness and delaying sleep onset.

To avoid overstimulation, limit screen time and caffeine in the evening. Engage in calming activities like yoga or Tai Chi to prepare the body for rest. Establish a relaxing bedtime routine that signals the brain to wind down. By reducing overstimulation, falling asleep and enjoying restful sleep become easier.

Cause #8: Desire for “Me Time”

Solution: Reserve time for hobbies and find relaxation activities.

Balancing relaxation and winding down is crucial for quality sleep. Engage in enjoyable activities earlier in the day to avoid stimulating the mind before bed. Opt for calming activities like reading or taking a warm bath to unwind and prepare for sleep. Prioritize “me time” without compromising sleep quality.

Cause #9: Compulsion to Complete Tasks

Solution: Prioritize tasks and establish boundaries.

Balancing work and rest is crucial. Recognize the importance of taking breaks and avoiding late-night work. Prioritize sleep to enhance productivity and overall well-being. Establish boundaries and know when to stop working and start winding down. Break free from the cycle of sleep procrastination by valuing your sleep.

Cause #10: Avoidance of Facing Tomorrow

Solution: Practice relaxation techniques and address underlying anxiety.

Avoiding tomorrow’s tasks due to stress and anxiety often leads to sleep procrastination. We delay facing responsibilities, feeling overwhelmed by the thought. For instance, anxiety about criticism from a superior may cause us to avoid tasks, prolonging stress. Instead, address the root cause, develop coping mechanisms, and manage stress to overcome sleep procrastination and ensure restful sleep.

Improving Sleep Hygiene: 10 Tips for Better Rest

If you struggle with sleep procrastination, implementing healthy sleep habits is essential. Follow these ten tips for a better night’s rest:

  1. Establish a consistent bedtime window of one hour (ie “I need to be in bed between 9 and 1o”).
    * Begin your bedtime routine as soon as you begin to feel sleepy within that window.
  2. Stick to a consistent bedtime routine.
  3. Create a conducive sleeping environment.
  4. Don’t stay in bed for more than 20 minutes if you can’t fall asleep.
  5. Turn off electronic devices at least 30 minutes before bedtime.
  6. Avoid heavy meals, caffeine, and alcohol before bed.
  7. Incorporate a brief meditation practice.
  8. Use your bed for sleeping and intimacy only.
  9. Exercise during the day and maintain a healthy weight.
  10. If you have sleep apnea, use your C-pap machine as recommended.

By implementing these healthy sleep habits, you’ll improve your chances of a good night’s rest and wake up feeling refreshed and energized. Remember, a consistent routine and comfortable sleeping environment are key to achieving restful sleep.

*Updated July 13, 2023

Learn more about Stress Management Counseling in Austin.

Jonathan F. Anderson, LPC-s has worked in the helping profession since he started college in 1990. After completing his Bachelor’s degree at the University of Texas, Austin in 1994, he attended the highly-regarded University of Minnesota to earn his Master’s degree in 1997. He is a Licensed Professional Counselor and is recognized as a Board Approved Supervisor by the State of Texas Board of Examiners of Professional Counselors. Jonathan has completed Level-2 of the Gottman Method of Couples Counseling, and in 1998 received training from the International Critical Incident Stress Foundation in Advanced Critical Incident Stress Management & Debriefing. To learn more about Jonathan’s practice, click here: Jonathan F. Anderson, LPC-s.

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