Bedtime Procrastination

Before you begin reading, please take the time to respond to each of the following nine phrases with a simple yes or no (Kroese et al., 2014).

  1. I go to bed later than I intended to.
  2. I go to bed late, even if I have to get up early in the morning.
  3. If it is time to turn off the lights at night, I do not do it immediately and need a distraction first.
  4. Often, I find I am still doing other things when it is time to go to bed.
  5. I easily get distracted by things when I actually would like to go to bed.
  6. I do not go to bed on time.
  7. I have a regular bedtime but do not keep to it.
  8. I want to go to bed on time but do not.
  9. I have trouble stopping my activities when it is time to go to bed.

Based on your responses above, would you say that you procrastinate your sleep? If you happened to answer yes to one, or multiple, of the aforementioned questions, that may be exactly what you are experiencing!

Revenge Bedtime Procrastination (RBP), and While-in-Bed Procrastination (WIBP), are two phenomena that are crippling adolescent individuals (Figure 1). RBP occurs when an individual delays going to bed, despite the lack of sleep it causes (Kroese et al., 2014; Magalhães et al., 2020). Similarly, WIBP occurs when an individual delays going to sleep by distracting themselves with activities reading, watching TikTok, or playing video games while already in bed (Magalhães et al., 2020). For the purposes of this blog post, these phenomena will be referred to under the umbrella term Bedtime Procrastination (BP).

Figure 1: An image depiction of what BP could look like for some individuals. The top left image shows an individual delaying sleep by watching television, the bottom right shows a similar instance where the individual is delaying sleep by using their smartphone. The top right and bottom left images show an individual delaying their sleep by overthinking and continuing to activate their mind with thoughts (Lumino Health, n.d.).

There is no argument that sleep is not a vital aspect of human survival. It assists with maintaining homeostasis within our bodies, improving memory and concentration, as well as preventing other determinants such as obesity, depression, cancer, hypertension, and cardiovascular disease (Kroese et al., 2014; Magalhães et al., 2020; Siroiset al., 2019). Studies also suggest that lack of sleep in adolescent populations results in the increase of risky behaviors such as reckless driving, high-risk sexual acts, and the use of substances such as tobacco, marijuana, and alcohol (Magalhães et al., 2020). Knowing this, why are adolescent individuals still procrastinating their sleep?

A qualitative study done by Sirois et al. (2019) suggests that BP acts as a short-term mood repair after stressful or long days. Essentially, individuals attempt to maximize their leisure, stress-free time by delaying their sleep in order to regain freedom in their busy schedules. Herzog-Krzywoszanska and Krzywoszanski (2019) found that in similarly aged individuals, students reported experiencing more BP than non-students, further emphasizing that BP act as short-term stress and mood repair (Herzog-Krzywoszanska and Krzywoszanski, 2019). 

The main cause of BP boils down to an individual’s ability to self-regulate (Kroese et al., 2014; Magalhães et al., 2020). Self-regulation is a vital skill that when strengthened, assists with emotion control, responding appropriately to situations, and being a self-directed learner (Pandey et al., 2017). An individual’s ability to self-regulate has a direct negative correlation with BP (Figure 2) (Kroese et al., 2014; Kroese et al., 2016). Individuals with lower self-regulating abilities have a more difficult time stopping detrimental activities affecting their sleep (Herzog-Krzywoszanska and Krzywoszanski, 2019). As a skill, individuals must work to improve their self-regulation abilities (Pandey et al., 2017). Since adolescents are still a developing age group, they have less ability to self-regulate than adults. Thus, this may be a key reason why adolescent populations are disproportionately affected by BP. So, what can be done to prevent BP?

Figure 2: A simplified chart outlining the relationships between self-control (self-regulation), BP, and insufficient sleep. The numbers represent the standardized regression coefficients determined in Krose et al.’s research. As you can see, the standard regression coefficient between self-control and BP is negative which indicates a weak, negative correlation between the variables. Conversely, the positive number between BP and insufficient sleep indicates a moderate positive correlation (Kroese et al., 2016).

The simple answer is to relax. In addition to removing late-night distractions and electronics before bed, maintaining a sleep schedule, and eliminating caffeine in the afternoon and evenings, reclaiming daytime hours for yourself can help prevent BP (Herzog-Krzywoszanska and Krzywoszanski, 2019). For instance, taking an hour to go to the gym or meditate, spending half an hour practicing good hygiene before bed, or reading ten pages of a book can all help to make you feel less overwhelmed and prevent the need for late-night BP (Otsuka, 2022).

References:

Herzog-Krzywoszanska, R. and Krzywoszanski, L., 2019. Bedtime Procrastination, Sleep-Related Behaviors, and Demographic Factors in an Online Survey on a Polish Sample. Frontiers in Neuroscience, 13, p.963. https://doi.org/10.3389/fnins.2019.00963.

Kroese, F.M., De Ridder, D.T.D., Evers, C. and Adriaanse, M.A., 2014. Bedtime procrastination: introducing a new area of procrastination. Frontiers in Psychology, 5, p.611. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2014.00611.

Kroese, F.M., Evers, C., Adriaanse, M.A. and de Ridder, D.T., 2016. Bedtime procrastination: A self-regulation perspective on sleep insufficiency in the general population. Journal of Health Psychology, 21(5), pp.853–862. https://doi.org/10.1177/1359105314540014.

Lumino Health. [online] Available at: <https://luminohealth.sunlife.ca/s/revenge-bedtime-procrastination?language=en_US> [Accessed 12 September 2022].

Magalhães, P., Cruz, V., Teixeira, S., Fuentes, S. and Rosário, P., 2020. An Exploratory Study on Sleep Procrastination: Bedtime vs. While-in-Bed Procrastination. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 17(16), p.5892. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph17165892.

Pandey, A., Hale, D., Goddings, A.-L., Blakemore, S.-J. and Viner, R., 2017. Systematic review of effectiveness of universal self-regulation-based interventions and their effects on distal health and social outcomes in children and adolescents: review protocol. Systematic Reviews, 6, p.175. https://doi.org/10.1186/s13643-017-0570-z.

Otsuka, T., 2022. Revenge Bedtime Procrastination: How to Break This Exhausting ADHD Habit. [online] Available at: <https://www.additudemag.com/revenge-bedtime-procrastination-sleep-problems-adhd/> [Accessed 12 September 2022].

Sirois, F.M., Nauts, S. and Molnar, D.S., 2019. Self-Compassion and Bedtime Procrastination: an Emotion Regulation Perspective. Mindfulness, 10(3), pp.434–445. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12671-018-0983-3.


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