Why ‘Bedtime Procrastination’ Hurts Health and 4 Ways to Beat It

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Tech gadgets — whether they be smartphones or tablets — function to make day-to-day life easier and information more accessible. But one vice affiliated with the rise of tech gadgets is their ability to distract the user. Those who own gadgets can attest how easy it is to get distracted with viral videos, listicles, and the other perils that come with too much convenience.

One particular facet of life that is directly affected by gadgets is your bedtime, and according to researchers from Utrecht University in the Netherlands, many gadgets play a part in a phenomenon called “bedtime procrastination,” which keeps you up at night longer than you need to be awake. The exact definition of the phrase is “failing to go to bed at the intended time, while no external circumstances prevent a person from doing so.”

“Bedtime procrastination was negatively associated with self-regulation: people who scored lower on self-regulation variables reported more bedtime procrastination,” wrote the authors of the study, which was published in the June issue of peer-reviewed journal Frontiers Psychology. “Moreover, self-reported bedtime procrastination was related to general reports of insufficient sleep above and beyond demographics and self-regulation.”

The findings of the study are significant for one reason in particular: Sleep deprivation takes a toll on your body, and information that can help curb it is vital. Chronic sleep loss can put you at risk for a wide array of health conditions, including heart disease, heart attack, heart failure, irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure, stroke and diabetes. What’s more, sleep deprivation has been linked to a diminished sex drive and lower cognitive processes (translation: it makes you stupid), contributes to depression, ages your skin, makes you forgetful, increases the likelihood of weight gain, and impairs judgment.

Considering the many effects of sleep deprivation and not getting enough sleep, one can understand the concern with bedtime procrastination. If you are looking for ways to battle bedtime procrastination, then consider these four tips on how to get into a habit of sleeping on time.

1. Limit food and drink intake

One factor that can enable bedtime procrastination is eating foods that will keep you up. For example, if you drink a caffeinated beverage right before bedtime, then chances are, your inability to sleep will manifest in a binge session of House of Cards. As such, try to avoid alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine before going to bed. And if you’re a light sleeper, try not to eat or drink too much right before bedtime, ergo preventing trips to the bathroom at night.

2. Avoid naps

A good nap can be the most wonderful feeling in the world, but it can also mess up your schedule even more. A midday nap will make you extra alert toward the later hours of the day, so opt against getting some shut-eye during the day. This will tire you out faster and make you fall asleep when you hit the bed.

3. Exercise

Working out is not only good for your body and heart health, but also for sleeping better. A 2010 study found that physical activity improved sleep and mood in subjects. And the benefit is not a one-way street — a study from the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University, published in The Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, found that those who slept better were more likely to work out and work out for a longer period of time.

4. Create a ritual

Set a nighttime ritual and create a sleep schedule. By sleeping at the same time and waking up at the same time, your body will adjust and stay in sync with the pattern you create. This means you will naturally want to go to bed at a certain time, no matter what show you’re watching or what you’re distracting yourself with. Creating a ritual is a great way to gear your body for bedtime, and the pattern will help. End the ritual by turning off the lights and unplugging your gadgets: shut off your computer and tablets, and leave your phone on silent.

Think you do not need these four tips to battle bedtime procrastination? According to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences, 50 million and 70 million Americans suffer from sleep disorders or deprivation. And while doctors and professionals recommend getting at least eight hours of sleep a night, a poll conducted by Gallup last year found that most Americans got 6.8 hours of sleep each night. Do your body and mind a solid by picking a bedtime you can stick to and making sure you get at least eight hours of sleep each night.

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