Stop Bedtime Procrastination for Good


Hard truth: Even if it feels like a treat when you stay up late to chill, you're sabotaging your wellness dreams. Here's how to get me time and a healthy amount of Zs.

Last updated: 29 June 2022
5 min read
  • More sleep could boost your mood, immunity and energy—your wake-up call for owning your bedtime habits.
  • No need to sacrifice your evening TV fix! Try the one-hour-compromise trick and you can have your Netflix and sleep too.
  • Schedule more fun into your daily calendar so you'll be less tempted to skimp on shut-eye.

Read on to learn more …

How to Stop Revenge Bedtime Procrastination, According To Sleep Experts

It's Friday and you just had another full-on week, the kind where you haven't so much as turned on your TV or opened a book since Sunday. You get cosy on the couch and cue up the latest must-watch show, and before you know it, it's past midnight. "Still watching?" the TV asks you. To which you roll your eyes. Obviously.

This is classic bedtime procrastination—also called revenge relaxation, or staying up to do next to nothing in order to reclaim your free time. And while it might feel like exactly what you need, it's only hurting your ability to make real progress towards your wellness goals.

Why Sleep Takes the Fall

Most of us have overscheduled lives, says Jennifer Martin, PhD, a clinical psychologist, behavioural sleep medicine specialist and professor of medicine at UCLA. And people often sacrifice sleep for me time, especially when they don't live alone, she says. You tell yourself "just one more" (hour of scrolling, book chapter etc.). The next thing you know, it's 2am, and you have to be up at 7.

"When people are sleepy, they don't always make great decisions", says Martin. And it's a vicious cycle, because when you decide to stay up late, you're even more tired the next day, says Martin, upping the chances that this will become a habit.

We probably don't need to remind you that not logging the recommended seven to nine hours of nightly shut-eye can affect how you think and feel during your waking hours. But we will.

"You could be groggy and notice that you're not concentrating or remembering things well", says Keisha Sullivan, DO, a sleep medicine specialist. Emotionally, you may be moody and irritable. Physically, a lack of solid sleep leaves your body stressed out. This causes you to release more cortisol (a stress hormone), which can weaken your immune system, making you more likely to get ill, says Sullivan. And those are just the short-term consequences. None of it bodes well for acing your nutrition, fitness or mental health ambitions.

Got your attention? Great. Now that you're aware of the pitfalls of bedtime procrastination, all you need to take back the power is to hold yourself accountable—and follow this advice.

How to Stop Revenge Bedtime Procrastination, According To Sleep Experts

1. Change your mindset.

To be more on top of your bedtime, you have to stop thinking of staying up to relax as "treating yourself" and instead think of sleep as the ultimate treat, says Martin. It's sort of like your post-workout snack: Rewarding yourself with a brownie might be instantly gratifying, but a protein-packed smoothie tastes good and supports your long-term wellness goals and success. Optimists, get even more excited: A positive mindset can enable you to bank more and higher-quality sleep, research shows.

2. Reach a compromise with yourself.

Part of you wants to stay up into the small hours finishing a season of the latest true-crime show. The other wants to tuck in early because you feel your best on a good night's rest. Your move is to meet in the middle.

That happy place, according to both Martin and Sullivan, is staying up no more than an hour past your usual bedtime (that's the time that gets you those seven-plus hours of Zs). Flexing beyond that, even just once a week, can disrupt your sleep schedule. To maintain as much consistency as possible, stick with your regular alarm, says Sullivan, as changing both your bedtime and out-of-bed time can throw your internal clock out of whack.

If you need more accountability, take actual action to cut yourself off after an hour, says Martin. Put a sleep timer on your TV, slide a pre-emptive bookmark into whatever you're reading and/or set an alarm for bed (and don't hit snooze).

3. Front-load your fun.

Taking control of your sleep situation also means being honest about how much time you need for just yourself, whether it's one hour a day or one day a week, says Martin. Then schedule it first thing in the morning, midday or earlier in the evening, breaking it up into smaller bouts if need be. This way you'll feel less in need of downtime at night.

If you have a partner and kids, negotiate an hour-long or day-long swap with your person, suggests Martin. That way you each get a chance to kick back (or exercise, get a haircut or do whatever you need to do to feel better about yourself) while the other takes care of business.

4. Don't sleep in on the weekend.

By prioritising bedtime during the week instead of procrastinating, you might find that you don't need as much sleep on the weekend, says Martin. That's because maintaining a regular sleep schedule keeps your internal body clock in check, which should make it easier to wake up refreshed every day. Plus, solid sleep typically leads to more energy, more motivation and less stress.

In other words, you should be better equipped to tackle work, school, chores and time-sucking projects more quickly, freeing up more time for all the fun stuff you were missing out on, explains Martin.

Turns out, sleep is exactly what you need to live a fuller life. So keep pushing yourself … right into bed.

Words: Ronnie Howard
Illustration: Jon Krause


Need more help getting your bedtime habits in check? Explore advice straight from the experts and start sleeping better tonight.

Originally published: 16 May 2022

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