Just say no to 'bedtime procrastination'

RACHEL CLUN
Last updated 15:35 31/07/2014
yawn

OH SO TIRED: Understanding the effects bedtime procrastination can have on your life can help you kick the habit for good.

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It's a modern phenomenon to delay going to bed for no reason. But this is one bad habit you should break, writes RACHEL CLUN.

We've all done it - stayed on the couch watching TV into the wee hours, even though we know we have work in the morning.

Perhaps instead of watching television, you decided to do all your laundry at 10pm.

No matter what you actually do, though, your bad pre-bedtime habits will leave you feeling less than excellent in the morning.

Dutch researchers have studied this phenomenon of delaying bedtime for no real reason, and dubbed it "bedtime procrastination".

Sleep physician Maree Barnes, from the Sleep Health Foundation, says putting off your bedtime till later is a huge problem in our society.

"People want to do other things, and sleep is really not an organised or prioritised part of their life," Barnes says.

She says while she does not have hard data as to why people procrastinate, she has a good idea.

"I think it's probably because they don't take sleep seriously," Barnes says.

"I would think [it's] because still in our society people think of sleep as something optional - something that is a bit of a nuisance because it's a 'waste of time'."

People see sleep as something they can delay or put off without changing the quality of sleep they get, says Barnes, but this is simply not the case.

Sleep experts know there are certain times in the day that are the best for sleep, and our body regulates our own cycle with melatonin.

By procrastinating, Barnes says we'll miss our window of opportunity and we won't sleep well.

Then you wake up feeling tired, and you might have a quick nap before dinner, which Barnes says will affect your ability to get to sleep when you really should be hitting the hay.

It sounds like an endless spiral into late nights and groggy mornings, but Barnes says there are a couple of important things we can do to help us get to bed on time.

Be more mindful

Barnes says understanding the effect bedtime procrastination has on your life can really help you kick the habit for good.

"It's often a matter of realising and understanding that this procrastination is having an impact on your ability to function and enjoy things during the day," she says.

She says this realisation will help you make the changes you need to get a better bedtime routine happening, which will help you get to bed with minimal delays and leave you feeling better in the morning.

Have a routine

Barnes says the benefit of having a bedtime routine is that it takes the thinking out of going to bed.

"If you give yourself a set of guidelines or a set of rules to live by, it means that you don't have to [go through] the decision-making process," she says.

"You've already decided that once and you don't have to decide it again every night."

This means going to bed at about the same time every night is an absolute must, she says.

To nip procrastinating in the bud, Barnes says planning a bedtime routine works really well because it trains our body to know exactly when we should be going to sleep.

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"Have a routine for that half-hour before you go to sleep," Barnes says.

"So you try to do more or less the same thing every night for half an hour before you go to bed: You'll switch off the telly, you'll take the dog outside, brush your teeth and get in your pyjamas.

"Have the same sort of behavioural patterns [each night] so that by the time you walk into the bedroom, your body already knows that the next step down that path is going to be getting into bed and going to sleep."

Switching off the telly might be hard, but when it comes down to it, the next episode of whatever can wait. A good night's sleep can't. 

- The Press

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