Although we can hardly suppress yawning in the afternoon, we don’t manage to go to bed early. Instead, we waste time, put off sleep. Why are we doing this to ourselves?
The circles under the eyes are getting darker, the mood more irritable and still – we just don’t want to sleep. At least not yet. Instead, we scroll through Instagram feeds for hours and binge the series on and on, uselessly defying fatigue. The energy hole greets you in the morning.
The endless procrastination at bedtime has a name: bedtime procrastination. This is a relatively new phenomenon. It was first named by the Dutch social and behavioral researcher Floor M. Kroese in 2014. Put simply, the term means that sleep is deliberately postponed against better knowledge, even though there is no need for it. But why?
Procrastination as a pattern
A simple answer: because we can’t control ourselves. The results of Kroese’s study indicate that there is a connection between – and this is probably not surprising – lack of self-control and postponing bedtime. Those who find it difficult to eat just one piece of chocolate instead of the whole bar, those who prefer to stay on the sofa even though they wanted to go jogging half an hour ago, also tend, according to the researchers, to the put off sleep. In short, people who procrastinate in one area tend to do the same in others.
“Particularly at risk for procrastination in general are people who have a lot of freedom of action in their job – i.e. executives, managers, students and freelancers such as lawyers, architects or journalists,” quotes “National Geographic” the coach and psychological psychotherapist Anna Höcker. Together with the procrastination outpatient clinic at the University of Münster, she has developed an online self-test that reveals quickly and free of charge how strong your own procrastination behavior is compared to that of other people.
Is procrastination a type thing?
The tendency to bedtime procrastination could also simply be a matter of type. Three researchers led by the psychologist Jana Kühnel from the University of Vienna came to this study result. Accordingly, the biological clock of the participants had an influence on whether they procrastinated at night or not. It was mainly people of the “owl” chronotype, i.e. so-called evening people, who found it difficult to go to bed.
Their opponents, the “larks”, on the other hand, had fewer problems with it. In another study, researchers also found evidence that young people, women and students are more often affected by bedtime procrastination. However, other factors such as place of residence, level of education or marital status did not seem to have any influence.
Revenge Bedtime Procrastination: A twist on revenge
Well, and then there’s something called revenge bedtime procrastination. A term that comes from the Middle Kingdom and means something like “to go to bed late for revenge”. In China, working days are long and free time is scarce. The time before bed is one of the few moments that can be filled at will.
The revenge bedtime procrastination is a kind of protest against the living conditions in which the work-life balance is out of kilter. A protest that is actually at the expense of the protester, because instead of recovering, the lack of sleep is fed. This is a conscious decision, a kind of act of revenge and not an unplanned postponement, as the sister phenomenon Bedtime Procrastination describes it.
Insomnia as a mass phenomenon
How many people would rather stick matches in their eyes than go to sleep at a reasonable hour is difficult to estimate. The study situation is thin. Representative data are not yet available. However, Kroese and her team provided the first indications as early as 2014. In their study in the Netherlands, around half of the 2,637 respondents stated that they said they went to bed later than planned on three or more days of the week without reason. More than a third said it happens to them at least once a week. As a result, almost everyone felt exhausted during the day. Psychologist Jana Kühnel also conducted a study on the subject. This suggests that Germans delay their night’s sleep to a similar extent.
According to the German Society for Sleep Research and Sleep Medicine, insomnia is one of the most common disorders worldwide. An estimated 5 to 10 percent of Germans have difficulty falling asleep in the evening and/or sleeping through the night over a longer period of time. The result: exhaustion, reduced performance and behavioral or mood disorders during the day. In the long term, sleep deprivation can also increase your risk of developing depression, anxiety disorders, and other illnesses.
And what helps? According to psychotherapist Höcker, bedtime procrastination is, just like procrastination, a learned behavior that can be unlearned again. “For many, a soft solution is enough,” says Höcker to “National Geographic”. “If you find that you often get stuck on your cell phone, Internet, Netflix and Co., avoid them about half an hour before you go to bed.” Her tip: limit the time for these “procrastination dangers”, set an alarm clock. Or just not taking the sources of evil, such as your smartphone, to bed in the first place.It also helps to develop new rituals that help you relax.
Quellen: Studie: Bedtime procrastiantion, Studie: Why Don’t You Go to Bed on Time?, Studie 2: Bedtime procrastination, Spektrum, DGSM, National Geographic