Why Don’t You Go to Bed on Time

A New Study (2018) Reveals the Old Reason for the Bedtime Procrastination

Bedtime procratination

Are you struggling to go to bed on time?

You are a responsible person but fail to go to bed on time especially on the first days of the week? You can’t wake up on time. Need to snooze your alarm clock several times.

After you finally got up, you have to run to get ready to work, have breakfast and be on time everywhere.

At work, you demonstrate poor performance. In addition to that, you start feeling guilty, you blame yourself about your ability to control yourself.

Well, there are several studies which have shown the relationship between bedtime procrastination and a lack of self-regulatory resources.

But, there is a new study (2018) which reveals the old reason for not going to bed on time. I will describe it in a minute.

The study was conducted by Jana Kühnel and her colleagues at the Work and Organizational Psychology department of the Ulm University, Germany.

They examined the role of chronotype (interindividual differences in biological preferences for sleep-wake-times, also referred to as morningness-eveningness or ‘larks’ and ‘owls’) and self-regulatory resources in bedtime procrastination.

For this purpose, they generated data from 108 employees working in various industries. The participants had non-shift work, were not diagnosed with a sleep disorder and had at least 70% weekly working time.

The participants completed questionnaires on chronotype, trait self-control at the begging of the study.

Additionally, they completed two questionnaires every day, one to measure momentary self-regulatory resources before they go to sleep and another to measure bedtime procrastination every morning referring the experience of bedtime procrastination on the previous evening.

They did this by asking them questions like ‘Right now, I feel like my willpower is gone’ or ’My mind feels unfocused right now’.

Here are the results.

Professor Jana Kühnel and her colleagues found that ‘owls’ went to bed later than ‘larks’ on work days, but bedtime procrastination declined by Thursday. This pattern could be explained by chronobiology only and couldn’t be explained by trait self-control.

On the contrary, on evenings when the participants had more self-regulatory resources, they did procrastinate more. These results don’t show that reduced self-regulatory resources can cause day-specific bedtime procrastination.

Furthermore, the researchers even argue that delaying to go to bed is not procrastination. The thing is the term procrastination was introduced first by the psychologist Piers Steel (2007). He writes: ‘Procrastination is a prevalent and pernicious form of self-regulatory failure.’

Steel defined behavioural procrastination as the voluntary delay of action despite negative outcome causing by the delay. What is actually happens with later chronotypes (‘owls’) is their endogenous, circadian drive makes them feel more alert in the evening than earlier chronotypes (‘larks’).

This means that feeling more alert could work as a cue (prompt) to engage in different activities instead of going to bed. The researchers argue that this could be called a voluntary delay – procrastination.

In conclusion, the researchers suggest that late chronotypes go later to sleep because of the biological processes and not because they fail to control their desires.

These findings are significant for us ‘owls’. Firstly, liberated us from the guilt of the self-regulatory failure. Secondly, they suggest different ways to deal with bedtime procrastination than trying to take more control of our own behaviour.

And if you still feel guilty because you don’t go to sleep on time, you should not.

It’s not your fault. Actually, you are a victim of your circadian rhythm – your biologically prefered bedtime is different. As I understand, the day was planned by so-called ‘larks’ in the whole World. I don’t know why? And I don’t know any country where people start work at 10 AM and go to bed at 11 PM.

Please, stop blaming yourself.

This is what you can do instead according to professor Jana Kühnel, her colleagues and Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School (2007):

-Get more light in the morning and during the day and less light in the evening, otherwise there will be a phase delay – shifting in timing to a later hour. The thing is circadian rhythm depends on environmental cues of which light is the most important one.

And exposure to blue light (examples are the electronic devices as a table, phone, flat screen television) seems to suppress melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone which makes us feel less alert, sleep becomes more inviting.

So, again make sure you turn on the lights the first time in the morning and have enough access to light during the day. But, stay off-screen, don’t use devices in the early night.

-Avoid caffeine 4 to 6 hours before bedtime. Caffeine found not only in coffee but also in tea, chocolate, cola and some medicines

-Exercise three hours before you go to sleep

-Avoid eating heavy food, soda and sugar before going to sleep

-Limit bedroom activities to sleep and sex.

I started to implement the advice mentioned above a month ago. I would turn on the lights in the morning, I would check my phone (blue lights) in the morning. Like any other change, it was hard. But it was effective. From the beginning, I was even happy that I was tired early in the evening so I could to sleep earlier.

‘This is working!’, I thought.

But, guess what?

After several days I started missing my old self. I wanted it back. I don’t mind being sleepy in the morning. I like being fresh until the time I go to bed so I can get done everything I have planned for the day.

So, I don’t turn on lights first thing in the morning anymore. But, I go to bed on time. I try to ensure 8 hours and 15 minutes of sleep every night.

You can also try and find out what do you prefer more. It’s up to you. It’s your choice. You can go to bed at the time when you can ensure about 8 hours of sleep. In any case, accept yourself as you are – Unique. 




Kühnel, J., Syrek, C. J., & Dreher, A. (2018). Why Don’t You Go to Bed on Time? A Daily Diary Study on the Relationships between Chronotype, Self-Control Resources and the Phenomenon of Bedtime Procrastination. Frontiers in Psychology,9. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2018.00077

Photo source: Victoria Heath/unsplash

How to Stop Procrastinating

Stop Procrastinating and Get Everything Done Without Wasting Your Precious Time

How to stop procrastinating

Is it difficult for you to do everything you have planned, are you missing exams, deadlines?

Sometimes, by the time you start the task, it’s already late – the stress is too high, and you can’t focus.

Regularly, you wake up in the morning and do remember your to-do list. Yet, instead of start working, you tend to do all the rest. You start from checking your emails.

Messaging and commenting under the post in the Facebook group. Also, you think about postponing things during the day.

Welcome to the club! You are procrastinating.
And procrastination is dangerous.

If you don’t stop procrastinating, you could fail at work. Your boss could fire you.
More than that, your procrastination is affecting your family members, including your kids.

Do you want to risk your life, destroy your kid’s life, feel embarrassed and stressed all the time?

Of course, not!
You can stop procrastinating and even use it for your benefit.
Here is how to stop it.

Let’s jump in.

1. Observe Yourself and Determine the Hierarchy

Observation is an essential skill. Especially when you want to find out the reason for your behaviour. It’s the first step of the scientific method.

Devote some time and observe your behaviour. You need to determine the hierarchy – in your mind, what is on the top of your to-do list and what is on the bottom. From all the things you have in your to-do list the one you are avoiding/delaying to do is the one on the bottom.

It’s the most difficult, unpleasant, boring, big or new task. Meaning it needs most of your effort (mental or physical) and most of your precious time.

What to do next to stop procrastinating?

2. USE procrastination to Get Things Done

The truth is, you can use procrastination to get more things done. Let’s take a look.

There is such a term as ‘productive procrastination’. The term was introduced first by the psychologist Piers Steel (2007). Productive procrastination means that while avoiding a big task, you will do tasks which you typically put off.

Remember the to-do list?
You will do all the tasks from the hierarchy while avoiding the one which is on the bottom – the hardest one.

Sounds familiar?
You are not alone, and it’s normal. Here is how to use this.
Trick your mind and get everything done!
Surprisingly, you will be motivated to do every task from your to-do list to avoid/delay the last difficult task.

TIP: You know what, do your to-do list. Yet, assign the last task to someone else. Yes! You can find someone who would love to do it, you can suggest doing something which is easy for you instead. Win-win situation. Little cooperation do not harm!
Let’s jump to number 3.

3. DO procrastinate!

Because studies on stress have shown that:
– Most people are less effective under the intense stress
– Most people are more effective under moderate stress

Usually, you have moderate stress several days just before the deadline.

So, don’t lose your precious time – do procrastinate, do something more important before.

TIP: Don’t start too late when the stress levels are so high you can’t finish it on time.

4. What to Do if the Task is Boring?

How to stop procrastinating when you have boring tasks on your to-do list? A task is boring if it’s very easy or not interesting for you. Unfortunately, very often we need to do boring tasks and sometimes spend much time on them too.

You can defeat the boredom!

Combine boring with fun or pleasant. Here is my example. When I was at secondary school I liked maths very much. But, because it was easy for me, it was boring to spend half an hour sitting and completing maths tasks.

So, I would combine maths with snacks – I would write with my right hand and eat sweet corn puffs with my left hand. You can combine boring easy tasks with puffs, seeds, crisps, fruits. Whatever is reinforcing for you, something you already love doing.

5. What to Do When the Task is Unpleasant or Difficult?

Some tasks are unpleasant. Even aversive. Examples are bathroom cleaning, diaper changing. It could be a task which contains an intensive physical exercise.

How to encourage yourself here? Let’s take a look.

You need to do three things:
– Remove as much as a possible aversion
– Add as much pleasure as possible
– Add some importance to this task

Let’s start by removing aversion – put gloves first.
Congratulations – you are halfway through!
You can also remove all chemicals. In the case of bathroom cleaning of other home chores, use natural products instead.

Tasks could have another difficulty, which will make you less productive. Being unproductive is another reason for procrastination. Get some tools. Could be a sponge with handle and little brushes. You need to increase your effectiveness to decrease procrastination.

Now, it’s time to add something pleasant to the process.
Music, listen to your favourite singer. You will finish everything in no time.

What about adding importance?

Very often, when you have much mental work to do, you need rest. You can take rest from mental task and do a physical task.
Of course, the best ideas come while you are walking. But, sometimes, you can have new ideas even when you are doing chores. The brilliant ideas that don’t come to your mind when you are sitting in front of the computer.

Another way of adding importance to the boring or aversive tasks is to start thinking about them as an exercise which benefits your health. In particular, if you are trying to lose weight.

6. How to Deal with Academic Procrastination

It’s difficult to stop procrastinating as a student.

When I started studying psychology at the Panteion University in Athens, my Greek was not so good. Of course, I couldn’t understand everything from the begging. I couldn’t be a good student as I used to be at my secondary school.

Yet, I didn’t want to fail. The problem here is that the goal is too big, and the resources are too low – the ultimate stress situation! What shall you do here?

I was stuck and needed some help!

Now, the best thing that comes to my mind is Richard Branson’s tweet:

‘I am known around the Virgin Group as Dr Yes. As I usually answer yes to any exciting new ideas, then worry about the details later.’

For me, Richard Branson is an excellent example of a self-confident person. He knows that he can find a way even if the idea is new and nobody had done it before!

I was not like him when I started University.

Fortunately, help came very soon. It was my second semester when our Social Psychology professor talked to us about the study on learned helplessness among students and how to deal with this (the professor knew very well how we felt, I guess!).

Scientists in the study gave participants easy tasks first. The tasks they could complete themselves with little effort. After, researchers slowly increased the difficulty of the tasks.

Being able to complete the tasks increased the confidence of the participants. As a result, by using this approach, all tasks (difficult and easy) were accomplished.

‘That’s it!’, I thought, ‘I know now what to do!’

I started studying with easy for me subjects, the ones I already knew, like statistics (maths). Some subjects were complicated. So, I had left them for the last year when my confidence was already very high.

The advice here is, relax. Don’t have big expectations from the begging. Start with something easy, interesting, something you already know. Build your confidence. Also, get help whenever you need it, especially from the beginning.

TIP: The biggest problem, though, is the stress during the exams. You can use different techniques to relax.

For example, a good way to relax and go to sleep is thinking of all the things and people in your life you are grateful for.

Yet, the best thing is not to get stressed during the exams in the first place. Here is the trick. Instead of spending less time with your friends during the exams, spend more time with them.

In particular, more exams you have, spend more time with your friends. Don’t do the opposite.

7. Would Better Sleep Help You to Stop Procrastination?

There is a new study from the University of Amsterdam. Wendelien van Eerde and her colleges conduct it. The research team demonstrated the connection between sleep quality and procrastination.

The poor quality of sleep is leading to more work procrastination the next day. Yet, not everyone was affected by the sleep quality. Only employees low in trait self-control did.

So, if you sleep better, you will procrastinate less.

And if you are high in trait self-control, congratulations! You will procrastinate less regardless of your quality of sleep!

That’s it.

Take care and
Don’t waste your precious time!

Remember, when you do everything you have planned, you will FEEL GREAT at the end of the day!

(Photo by Carl Heyerdahl/Unsplash)