A lot of us are guilty of some bad nighttime habits that can affect sleep quality. We may enjoy a nightcap (or two) before bed, stay up scrolling through our phones, or give in to the temptation of a good binge-fest on Netflix.
Another habit affecting your sleep you may be guilty of is something called “revenge bedtime procrastination.” Even if you’re not familiar with the term (or find it a tad bit aggressive), you’ve probably done it.
Here’s what we mean. Let’s say you finish work late, and don’t wrap up dinner and cleaning until 10 p.m. You’re exhausted, but instead of hitting the sheets, you give into the “me time” that you crave and spend some time decompressing by watching TV or scrolling on your phone. Suddenly, it’s 2 a.m. and you’re still awake.
Like many things in life, it all comes down to time and not having enough of it. So, how we can stop cutting time out of our sleep and still prioritize our me time? Read on for top expert tips.
Create a bedtime ritual
Even though our bodies produce melatonin, the hormone responsible for your natural sleep-wake cycle (no surprise: it’s at its highest at night), our bodies still need a gentle reminder that it’s time for sleep.
A bedtime routine delivers that, in addition to helping you get in some much needed self-care. Dr. Lea McMahon, LPC, a licensed counselor, adjunct professor of Psychology and Chief Clinical Officer at Symetria Recovery, recommends setting aside 30 minutes to an hour before bed to wind down.
“This routine can include brushing your teeth, reading, a skincare routine, and meditating or light stretching. These rituals would relax your body and give it a signal to sleep,” she says.
Adjust your schedule
Does your sleep get worse when you’re stressed? That’s not surprising, considering the two are closely linked, explains Dr. Julia Kogan, a health psychologist specializing in sleep and stress and anxiety. “When stress is high, this can interfere with attention, concentration, and energy. This combination makes it difficult for us to be productive within the time frame that we want.”
When you’re feeling overwhelmed and have less time to check things off your to-do list during the day, you may replace that time at night when you should be sleeping. Getting control of your schedule is one of the best ways to put this problem to bed (literally). And, choosing an activity, such as meditation, exercise or journaling, can help decrease the stress response in the body.
Curb your social media use before bed
While social media may have introduced us to the concept of revenge bedtime procrastination (TikTok creator Saman Haider explained the idea in a video), it also can be a contributing factor in keeping you up past your bedtime.
The National Sleep Foundation recommends that you stop using electronic devices, such as your cellphone, at least 30 minutes before bedtime. Many studies have found that the blue light from electronic devices (including your e-reader) can either reduce or delay the production of melatonin. So be sure to get in your social media scroll in earlier—way before you hit the hay.
Instead of stealing time from sleep to get some downtime, Robin Hornstein, Ph.D, a Psychologist and Master Prepared Life Coach & Health Coach, says that prioritizing what’s important is key. Although this may be hard for shift workers and working parents, it’s worth it.
It may also require the difficult task of setting boundaries and saying no. And this can be harder than ever in the days of smartphones.
“Anyone, at all times, including employers can reach out. And if you have not set limits, you would be inclined to keep disrupting your own flow to respond,” she explains. She works with her clients to examine the root cause of this and helps them to set some ground rules for their availability.
“In our busy lives, we are regularly juggling work, social activity, family time, and many other things. This often leaves little time for ourselves,” says Kogan. “Therefore, people will often delay sleep to maintain a sense of control and autonomy of their lives and their day.”
Naturally, the fix for this is making more time for yourself during the day. Go ahead and indulge in relaxation activities or things that offer immediate enjoyment, such as playing video games, watching videos or reading. Basically, anything to make you feel fulfilled for when self-control is at its lowest—at the end of a long day.