What is “revenge sleep procrastination” and how can we avoid it?
Consider the clinic door open – this is the first of our brand new mental health column, “Mind Matters” from Men’s Health. I am Dr Kieran Kennedy, a doctor specializing in psychiatry (aka brain + mental health) with degrees in psychology, physiology and medicine.
Aside from being a fitness enthusiast, I’m passionate about promoting all things mental health, so this is where we’ll be tackling a new series of mental health reps every week. Ensuring healthy mind as much as muscle is more important than ever, so I’m excited to join the HD team to help us do just that. Let’s go.
Procrastination with sleep
Closing your eyes is extremely important for all aspects of well-being, but when it comes to mental health it is even more vital. Interestingly, sleep is one of the most common struggles modern men face and the evidence suggests that most of us don’t get enough of it. So when I first read the “sleep procrastination” theory – the not-so-subtle art of not being able to crawl into bed even though we know we should – I admit I did. never felt so seen.
So what is it?
Although the theory of “revenge sleep procrastination” is still fairly recent, it carries some scientific weight. Technically, it is defined as delaying bed and losing sleep even when:
- there is no legitimate reason not to hit the hay
- we are tired and know we have to
- there’s a weird feeling that you can’t force yourself to do it.
If, like me, reading that sounds like someone sums up your entire adult life well, it turns out we’re not alone. Initial surveys show that sleep procrastination is incredibly common and is a big factor in why we’re less closed than ever.
So if staying up late in Youtube wormholes or literally doing anything other than going to bed at 10pm (I see you) is just that we are procrastinating on yet another thing, where does the “ revenge ” come from? ? As it turns out, psychologists now believe that delaying bedtime, even though we know we shouldn’t, is an important way for our minds to get some part of our day back. Studies show that bedtime procrastination often goes hand in hand with how the workday creeps into our daily lives and how much we think (or not) our time is ours. When we feel there is less time for “us,” procrastination can creep in as a mental tactic that makes us feel like we have had some downtime during the day.
How to fight back
So if procrastination isn’t something we just save for studies, bills, or embarrassing emails, you know you have to send the boss, how do we fight back when it comes to coping with the problem? night? And in turn, how can we get bigger and better sleep at full stop? Whether it’s to fight stress, depression, or to support general well-being, even a little more sleep can make a huge difference, so pushing is important.
Here are some literature-approved tips to kickstart sleep procrastination:
- Prioritizing time off is as important as time spent. Try to schedule downtime and non-work activities throughout the week, just like you do your to-do list, so there’s less need to procrastinate at night.
- Transition points help define the mental boundaries of the day. Even when working from home, have a signal that marks the end of the working day for the brain, like a run, shower, silenced emails, or even just a change of clothes
- Sleep improves in quantity but especially in quality when we prepare for it during the day. Try to save on caffeine (including pre-workout supplements) before lunch, keep alcohol-free days every week, stick to a usual sleep / wake time, and avoid screens 30 minutes before bedtime
- Where we sleep is as important as when. In an hour or two before bedtime, try dimming the lights, cooling the house down, reducing stimulation, and making the bed.
- The devices hijack the reward circuits and therefore work in favor of procrastination. Be intentional to time these overnight with a personal deal on times, a number of social media clips, or an alarm to break this Netflix frenzy.
- “Add 30” – call bedtime 30 minutes before the lights actually go out to help block procrastination (better yet, add the tips above here).
See you next week for our next episode of Men’s Health magazine “Mind Matters”.