Dhe tax return, colon cancer screening, the curtains that urgently need to be put in the washing machine – a lot can be pushed open with the phrase “Later, but not now!”. This also includes our sleep.
In the meantime, there is even a term for the phenomenon of postponed sleep with “Revenge Bedtime Procrastination”: “By that we mean repeatedly going to bed much too late, although the opportunity is given and we know that we will be dead tired the next day explains the psychologist and author Anna Höcker (“I’m really starting today!”).
Anyone hearing the term “Revenge Bedtime Procrastination” for the first time may stumble across the word “Revenge”, which can also mean “revenge” when translated from English. Anna Höcker explains what is behind it: “This addition implicitly assumes that it is a behavior that is intended to bring leisure, joy and purpose back into the evening hours.” Quasi a little “Ätsch!” everyday life in which many people are confronted with many obligations and high expectations.
The catch: Many don’t spend the extra time gained in the evening with a good book, a creative hobby or in the bathtub, but mostly in front of a screen.
Höcker is not surprised: “Social media consumption, Netflix and Co. are activities that are not strenuous and provide short-term reward.” And they invite you to get stuck, according to the motto: Oh, a series or a video on Instagram – that’s still possible!
The pandemic has intensified this behavior, says Alfred Wiater, who works as a sleep doctor on the subject. Home office, childcare, household chores and pandemic worries have shrunk the opportunities for leisure and relaxation. “So it makes sense, when there is finally peace in the evening, to finally distract yourself,” says Wiater.
What feels like self-care and “I’m doing something good for myself by allowing myself time for myself” around 11:30 p.m. can have undesirable consequences for health in the long run.
Because sleep procrastination quickly leads to a lack of sleep that is not to be trifled with, says Wiater. Most people know from their own experience that too little sleep can give your ability to concentrate and perform well. “The risk of mistakes and accidents also increases due to a sleep deficit,” recalls the sleep doctor. Bad mood is also associated with it.
In addition: the immune system, the cardiovascular system and the metabolism need sufficient sleep in order to be able to work well and healthily. True self-care is thus a night’s sleep designed to get enough sleep.
But how do you get rid of sleep procrastination? The good news: Procrastination – in general – is behavior that can be unlearned. “Only a small proportion of the people who procrastinate need professional treatment,” says Wiater. Anyone who feels a high level of suffering and can hardly cope with everyday life because of the constant procrastination can think about psychotherapy. Everyone else can make a difference themselves with even minor changes.
As a first step, Anna Höcker advises asking yourself what function sleep procrastination has for you. Is it about taking back the missing time for yourself? “Then you should bring more joy, lightness, freedom and meaningful things into the day, so as not to have the feeling of having to steal it from the night.”
Those who, on the other hand, postpone the night’s rest because ruminations set in the moment the light is switched off, can resolve to deal with the problems behind it.
But it is also possible that you are not affected by sleep procrastination at all, but simply have a body that cannot do much with sleep before midnight. “Perhaps everyday life can then be designed in such a way that it fits better with the biorhythm, for example with a flexitime model at work,” advises Höcker.
Anyone who has got to the bottom of sleep procrastination can use little tricks to get rid of it. The most important measure is to set the alarm clock, says Alfred Wiater. But not in the morning to get up on time. But in the evening. The ringing reminds you of the time you usually go to bed to get enough sleep.
In order not to be tempted to sink into your smartphone, you can also create the rule that technical devices are taboo in the 30 minutes before bedtime.
Clearly formulated if-then sentences help to avoid watering down your own plans. An example: when this show is over or when the alarm goes off, I get ready for bed. Anna Höcker thinks this is effective: “Psychological research shows that this is an effective method for persisting in behavioral changes and for building stable habits.”
In any case, it is helpful to establish a new evening ritual. If you manage to replace passive scrolling on your smartphone with reading, crossword puzzles, relaxation exercises or drinking a cup of herbal tea, for example, you have a good chance of sending procrastination to your bedroom door.
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