Most of us aren’t getting enough sleep. Bluntly, most of us never get enough sleep.
But a lot might have noticed a new phenomenon: It’s really hard to go to bed.
Scientists in the Netherlands call it “bedtime procrastination.” You know you need to hit the hay eight hours before your alarm, but somehow you’re still up, doing nothing in particular, two hours later.
Why does this happen, and why are more of us doing it? (Self included. Ahem).
Bedtime and Control
Most scientists call bedtime procrastination a lack of willpower or the result of low self-discipline. There’s a slew of self-help articles out there on how to stop bedtime procrastination, how terrible it is for you, etc.
Here’s the thing:
If you find yourself procrastinating about bedtime right now, you probably don’t have less willpower than you did in 2019.
You might have less of it to spare because you’re using more of it on staying sane while the world goes crazy around you.
What’s going on with many people right now is a slightly different phenomenon.
Revenge Bedtime Procrastination
Revenge bedtime procrastination isn’t about “willpower.”
It’s about control.
In normal times, people who engage in it are just plain desperate for “me time.” People with kids, people with difficult jobs. That might be the case for some people now: I’ve caught myself doing it because after my husband goes to bed is the only privacy I get period.
But the other thing is: You can always control when you go to bed. Staying up late is a way of exercising agency.
Right now, we can’t control anything in our lives. Many people don’t know if they’re going to have a job or a home. We can’t plan vacations unless we do it very carefully and get/rent an RV or something. We don’t know when or whether we’ll be able to do life milestones like weddings and even funerals again. My family’s still waiting to do a memorial for somebody who died in March.
So, taking that tiny bit of control back?
Armed with this, maybe we all need to start thinking of some other way to establish agency that isn’t depriving ourselves of sleep.
But it’s very hard.
Especially when late at night is the only time you have to yourself.