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New Study Finds Link Between Bedtime Procrastination, Anxiety & Sleep Difficulty

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November 5, 2022
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If you find yourself procrastinating about going to bed, you wouldn't be alone—but according to a new study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology, bedtime procrastination can have some unwanted effects. Here's what the researchers found.

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What is bedtime procrastination?

Before diving into the research, if you've never heard of "bedtime procrastination," it's when a person chooses to put off going to sleep in order to have more time in the evening. As integrative psychiatrist and sleep specialist Nishi Bhopal, M.D., previously explained to mbg, it usually happens when people don't feel they have enough time during the day, adding, "Those quiet nighttime hours are precious and often the only time we have to ourselves."

And according to sleep expert Shelby Harris, PsyD, CBSM, the people most likely to engage in bedtime procrastination are those who feel like they don't get any time for themselves, don't get time to decompress, or are overly stressed.

"Parents frequently do this, as they're working and taking care of their kids, and, once the kids go to bed, they finally decide to do things like binge-watch TV, read, or do anything they never really feel like they have the time to do," she explains.

Studying the relationship between anxiety and bedtime procrastination.

For this study, researchers wanted to know if factors like total sleep time and bedtime procrastination had any association with anxiety and/or sleep problems.

To test this, just over 300 participants (with an average age of 33) completed a questionnaire on their psychological health, as well as sleep behaviors, over the course of two weeks.

And sure enough, bedtime procrastination was linked with worse sleep outcomes, as well as mental health issues. Namely, the reportedly more anxious patients tended to engage in bedtime procrastination more frequently, were sleeping less, and were having more sleep difficulty than the less anxious participants.

And as far as why exactly people procrastinate about bedtime, the answer is somewhat unclear, the researchers note. But what is clear, however, is that anxiety, bedtime procrastination, and sleep challenges seem to go hand in hand.

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The takeaway.

The bottom line is, sometimes we all put off going to bed for a little extra "me-time," but if you're consistently going to bed later than you want to, it could be impacting your sleep quality and your mental health. The good news is bedtime procrastination is a habit that can be kicked. Taking some time for yourself during the day and trying your best to manage stress can ease the urge to steal back the time during which you should be sleeping. (And if you need some help with the latter, check out our favorite science-backed supplements for stress.) Future you will thank you.

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