Why does doing things late at night stop me sleeping? © Dan Bright

Why do I always find things to do late at night?

Published: 01st October, 2022 at 11:00
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If last-minute tasks are preventing you from going to bed, you might have revenge bedtime procrastination.

Life is busy and there are usually multiple things that we could be doing at any particular time. In this case, perhaps chipping away at an endless to-do list is leading to a late bedtime. An alternative possibility is that a hectic day can result in the desire to take time out for ourselves once the working day has finished. Perhaps we call friends or catch up on TV shows rather than sleep.


This latter possibility has been referred to as ‘revenge bedtime procrastination’, which stems from a Chinese saying reflecting an absence of free time due to our hectic and stressful working lives. This is not a phrase used widely within scientific literature – although there are studies focusing on bedtime procrastination more generally – which suggests that this is associated with poor self-regulation and missing out on sleep.

Given this, it might be worthwhile considering different techniques that can be used to reduce procrastination. A review of the literature highlighted different interventions for reducing procrastination more generally, including those focusing on developing self-regulation (for example, setting a bedtime and developing time-management skills) and cognitive-behavioural techniques (challenging those thought patterns that could be maintaining the procrastination).

These techniques now need to be further tailored specifically for sleep procrastination to be most effective for those who are missing out on their Zzzs.

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Alice is a Professor of Psychology at Goldsmiths. She has contributed to several diverse research areas, including the longitudinal associations between sleep and psychopathology, behavioural genetics, sleep paralysis and exploding head syndrome. In addition to her scientific contributions she also excels in the public engagement of science. She has published two popular science book (Nodding Off, Bloomsbury, 2018 and Sleepy Pebble, Nobrow, 2019). She regularly contributes articles to the media and has had her work published in outlets including the Guardian, GQ UK, Sud Ouest, Slate Fr, Independent.


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