Do you sometimes put off til tomorrow some things that you can do today? If so, you’re not alone. According to psychology professors at DePaul University up to 20% of people may be chronic procrastinators.
In a study published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology, researchers from Utrecht University in the Netherlands have found that “bedtime procrastination” may be keeping many of us from getting sufficient sleep. In their paper, researchers define bedtime procrastination as “failing to go to bed at the intended time, while no external circumstances prevent a person from doing so.” The flu or a house party upstairs count as external circumstances, but those little chores or distractions that don’t need to be addressed before the hitting the hay don’t. The Dutch study of 177 people found that certain characteristics like self-regulation and general procrastination contribute to the likelihood of bedtime procrastination. If you procrastinate during the day, you’re likely to procrastinate come bedtime.
And unlike other forms of procrastination, which may have career or academic consequences, bedtime procrastination leads to fatigue during the day. When it comes to overall health, sleep deprivation can contribute to conditions like diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity, and depression, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
More than one-quarter of the U.S. population report occasionally not getting enough sleep, and nearly 10 percent experience chronic insomnia, according to the CDC. For the average adult, the CDC recommends seven to nine hours of sleep per night. Not hitting your recommended sleep quota can have scarier consequences than bags under your eyes. People who regularly sleep less than six hours a night are more likely to have a higher body mass index (BMI), a ratio of height to weight. Getting just two more hours of sleep could put you in the category of people with the lowest BMI, according to the Harvard Medical School’s Division of Sleep Medicine. Sleep deprivation can also contribute to heart disease, hypertension, weight gain, poor mood, and poor immune function. And it can lower life expectancy. According to the Harvard study, “sleeping five hours or less per night increased mortality risk from all causes by roughly 15 percent.”
The impacts on health are tied to all the good things that happen in your body while you sleep. Adequate sleep allows your body to repair itself, rest, solidify memories, and secrete hormones that help control appetite and metabolism. It will be easier to beat bedtime procrastination if you establish healthy sleep hygiene habits.
The National Sleep Foundation recommends avoiding naps, coffee, and alcohol close to bedtime, as well as not eating right before you sleep. They also suggest avoiding non-natural light, emotionally upsetting activities before bed, and not using your bed as a living room couch. That means no TV watching in bed. To improve your sleep, the foundation recommends establishing a regular sleep pattern, doing vigorous exercises in the morning or afternoon and relaxing exercises like yoga before bed, and making sure that your bed is comfortable. They also suggest checking to make sure that your bedroom is not too hot or cold, or too bright.
Nurse Alice Benjamin is a nationally board certified Cardiac Clinical Nurse at world-renowned Cedar-Sinai Medical Center in West Hollywood, California with more than 15 years of experience. She is an American Heart Association spokesperson and first African-American nurse elected to the American Nurses Association/California Board of Directors. Benjamin is also a freelance on-air health expert and writer and hosts “Healthy Living with Nurse Alice” on Thursdays 9:25am ET on WENO 760AM. She has appeared on various national radio shows and TV shows including “Tom Joyner Morning Show”, “The Doctors” and HLN’s “News Now” and more. You can follow her on Twitter at @AskNurseAlice.