Staying up past bedtime: Sleep procrastination and how I fixed it

Woman listening to music in bed.Sleep procrastination is a condition that makes people resist the urge to fall asleep.

I’m not one to put off tasks. Everyone who knows me knows that. I wake up early, do work in advance and schedule my days (hour by hour, yes, even in lockdown).

But the one thing I kept stubbornly postponing for months, until recently, is sleeping. I would resist going to sleep every single night. Whenever I started to doze off, this strong refusal would take over. I actively dreaded it.

I’ve always hated nighttime, so for a while it seemed natural not to want the day to end. I reached a point where I would find myself sitting on the bed at 3:00 in the morning, my eyes were trying to close, doing nothing but feeling frustrated at my lack of self-control.

I started to research the feeling and found out it was a real thing, quite appropriately called sleep procrastination. On the Headspace website there are accounts of people describing the exact same sensations I had: not wanting to go to bed and associating sleepless nights with success.

I felt confident I could take control of my dread of sleep and I managed it for a good few weeks. When lockdown happened and I didn’t have to be anywhere anymore, the only thing that helped curb my procrastination was taken away. Why go to sleep at a reasonable time when you can rest the next day?

Back to square one, I started facing more nights when not going to sleep at all seemed so wonderfully appealing. But things quickly took a turn. It began with do-absolutely-nothing-and-feel-guilty days, everything annoyed me. I infuriated myself. When I lost my appetite, I knew I had to do something.

All of those effects are common for people suffering from lack of sleep, which made me even more determined to overcome procrastination. Who was I to resist sleeping, when people suffering from insomnia would do anything to be able to fall asleep?

This was the mindset that started it: sleeping is a luxury and I need to cherish it. I began with baby steps, like yoga in bed, to empty my mind of the parasite refusal, reading instead of looking at a screen, to ensure I could not physically resist falling asleep and setting myself plans for the next day that made me feel excited to wake up (I’ll admit at first this was just the thought of a jar of fancy coffee waiting for me in the morning).

I ultimately allowed myself some lazy mornings, with no alarms, no time-boundaries and the freedom to get back to sleep if I felt like it.

It’s been two weeks since I stopped seeing sleep as the doom. Although being in self-isolation made it worse at first, I’m grateful it showed me how serious it can become and allowed me to take my time and overcome it.

About the Author

Eliza Lita
Student Journalist at Leeds Beckett University

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