Deciding to go to bed a certain time is easy enough, but doing it is another story. Most of us get carried away late in the night, trying to tick off just a few more things we wish to do from our to-do list – whether it is work or for entertainment.
Just like we procrastinate when it comes to working out, completing our work, studying, and other activities – we do the same thing about going to bed on time. The next day, we wake up feeling tired and groggy, regretting sleeping late, but we somehow load up on coffee, power through long work hours, and continue this cycle.
It’s easy to ignore a set bedtime because the world doesn’t stop. The lights stay on, along with all your electronics. With fewer distractions in the evening when people are at home sleeping, and the stores are closed, it feels more tempting to focus on your tasks with no distractions.
If this sounds like you, you’re not alone. According to a study conducted by Utrecht University, Netherlands, 177 participants reported experiencing moderate levels of “bedtime procrastination,” which means they went to bed later than they intended with no outside circumstances holding them accountable for sleeping late. 30% of the participants slept 6 hours or less on weeknights – a number significantly less than the 7 to 9 hours recommended by the National Sleep Foundation.
How to Stop Staying Up All Night and Sleeping All Day
If you’re wondering how you can stop going to bed late at night and end your sleep procrastination, you need to understand that there is no easy fix. However, there are ways to force yourself into a schedule. The key is to make everything shut down so that you don’t have any option but to hit the hay. Here’s how you can do this successfully.
Know Why You’re Putting Off Sleep
There are many reasons one sleeps later than intended. You may have trouble sleeping in the night due to stress, a fight with your partner, you may have noisy neighbors, or your bedding isn’t comfortable anymore. Understanding the cause of your late-night sleeping and finding solutions for it should be one of your first steps to “force quit” yourself to go to sleep early.
Some common reasons most of us choose to stay up at night, despite waking up with regret every day, include:
How many times have you told yourself “Just one more episode” while watching your favorite show on Netflix or have felt the need to stay up until a movie is finished, no matter how long it is? Sometimes you may discover a brand new YouTube channel or blog, and you want to go through every piece of content uploaded. Or you’re probably aimlessly browsing through Amazon, or scrolling through your Instagram feed, spending hours without even realizing it or figuring out why you even got here.
If you can relate to this, it helps to be accountable for your actions and understanding that these distractions are harming your sleep pattern. Although addictive, there are many ways to switch these distractions off in a timely and effective manner. We’ll cover some amazing and creative ideas that can help you stick to your schedule if your nightly screen time is to blame later in this article.
You’re Worried or Stressed
Since you’re done with your day’s work, you probably have the most thoughts racing through your head at nighttime. This could be something big or stressful coming up, or a close deadline. Maybe you’re thinking about something that happened today, that could have been dealt with differently. Perhaps something didn’t go as planned.
Most of us like to distract ourselves from these troubling thoughts to make our time more enjoyable, or to make it go by quicker. However, these distractions cause us to worry about ourselves even more. If stress and troubling thoughts are keeping you up and distracted in the night, focusing more on relaxation, and less on distraction and outside entertainment can help you fall asleep.
You Have a Great New Idea or a Close Deadline
You’ve come up with an epic business plan, an idea for a store, or an Instagram account. You don’t want to forget these ideas, or you feel you’ll lose that spark and motivation you have right now if you don’t work on your project stat. Sometimes, it may not be an inspiration but a tight deadline keeping you working late into the night.
Whatever the reason, understand that you don’t have to compromise on your sleep to fulfill any of your tasks. Feeling like there’s so much to do and not enough time, is a key indicator of poor time management. Being organized, setting a time for each of your tasks (even house chores), and writing down any ideas you get on a notepad are effective ways of staying on track, completing your day’s tasks, and getting to bed on time.
Have a Bedtime Alarm
You have a morning alarm, so why not set an alarm that reminds you to turn off all electronics and get to bed. Most of us don’t sleep on time at night because we are distracted by our electronics. Your best bet would be to set the alarm 30 to 60 minutes before you want to sleep so that you have enough time to relax and settle down.
So set your alarm right now. Remember that those movies, videos, and episodes will still be available to watch the next day. You’re not missing out on anything. What you are missing out on is some good sleep that can do your mind and body wonders.
Download a Distraction-Blocking App
Once your alarm goes off, you may just hit the snooze button and ignore it. Therefore, we have a plan that’s going to make step 3 more bulletproof. Download a distraction-blocking app, such as Freedom. Open your app store, and do this right away.
Ultimately, it all comes down to your willpower and how important having a proper schedule is for you.
Keep All Electronics Out of Your Bedroom
Understand that a bedroom is for two things: sex and sleep. Unless it’s an activity that will help you fall asleep, such as meditation, or reading an actual book – it’s better to shut it down as soon as your alarm goes out and leave it outside your room.
Your TV, cellphone, laptop, and tablet, emit artificial blue light. Blue light inhibits the release of melatonin, a hormone that responds to light and dark. Humans are evolved to wake up at sunrise, and sleep when it’s dark, as both cues influence the release of melatonin in our bodies. Just like the sun, the blue light emitted from our devices keep us up in the night, causing sleep deprivation and insomnia.
If you have been struggling to let go of your sleep procrastination habit, have an inventory check of all the electronics you routinely place in your bedroom. A common mistake is to have your workspace or your TV in the same room you sleep in. Trust us, placing your TV, computer, workstation, tablet and even your phone outside of your room can help you stop staying up all night and sleeping all day.
Get a Real Alarm Clock
A large majority of us rely on our cell phones to wake us up. We all love multitasking devices. However, for the sake of your sleep and good health, consider getting an old-fashioned alarm clock. Chances are you have on lying around somewhere already.
Using an alarm clock, instead of your phone, cuts out one excuse for letting your phone inside your sleep premises. If you have to keep your phone in your bedroom for whatever reason, consider placing it on your dresser before you go to bed, instead of your nightstand. You’ll also want to set a loud enough alarm so that it gets you out of bed to switch it off.
Keeping your phone far away from you sends a signal to your brain that your phone is currently off-limits, preventing it from keeping you up late in the night.
Social Media Detox
Start by tracking how much time you spend every day on your phone. There are plenty of apps that can help you do this.
Quality Time is an excellent choice for night owls as it tracks your phone usage and provides you with a detailed, real-time analysis of your total usage, screen unlocks, and more. It also gives you usage alerts, reminding you if you go overboard with your usage. You can also choose to block notifications, reject calls, and whitelist your contacts.
If you’re like most people, you probably spend a chunk of your phone usage time on social media. To spend less time scrolling through your feed, we recommend going cold turkey for one week, if possible – unless you have to use social media for work purposes.
Let’s face it, mindlessly scrolling through your social media is a surefire way to rot the brain. Furthermore, when you go on a social media cleanse, you’ll realize how much more time you have to perform other activities. Once you’ve completed an entire week, you’ll realize you won’t feel the same urge to look at your feed anymore. It’s kind of like going on a sugar detox – after some time of giving up sugar, you’ll notice that the sweet treats you used to enjoy, taste too sweet for you now.
Turn On Your Computer’s Automatic Shutdown Feature
Did you know you can shut down your computer at any pre-selected time? You can even have this time change from one night, to another, whenever needed.
If you spend hours working on your computer and find yourself up too late every night, this feature is for you. After turning this feature on, you’ll know what time your computer will try to close itself, without even asking. So you’ll try to finish your tasks quickly, without distractions, and aim to finish your work at a set time. You can also schedule a startup time if you want your computer to be up and ready when you’re ready to work. For Windows, follow these steps to shut your computer down on schedule:
- Open the Start Menu, and type in “task scheduler” and open it from your results.
- Click on Create Task in the right pane. Check “Run with highest privileges” and “Run whether the user is logged in or not.”
- Go to the Settings tab and check “Stop the task if it runs longer than.” Set it to 1 hour so that your computer doesn’t think that there’s a task still running.
- Next, enter the Actions tab, click on New, and then click on “Start a Program.”
- Set program to shut down and set the arguments to –s.
- Finally, go to the Triggers tab, click on new, and change the schedule to suit your requirements. For example, you can type “Daily at 10:00 PM”. Hit OK.
- Hit OK again on the next window, and your task is saved.
If you’re using Mac, the process is much easier. To set your shutdown schedule on OS X, follow these steps:
- Open System Preferences and hit Energy Saver.
- Click the Schedule button in the bottom right-hand corner.
- Check “Startup or wake” to schedule when your computer goes to sleep and turns on.
- You can set schedules for specific days of the week, the weekends, or every day.
- After making your choices, click OK, to finish.
If you’re using a Mac laptop, be sure to connect it to a power source for these schedules to work.
Set Up an Interruption
Download an app, such as Alarm Clock Xtreme or Math Alarm that requires you to solve a math problem to shut the alarm off. This doesn’t require too much energy, but it requires just the right amount of focus to wake you up.
Note that this technique is incredibly effective in the nighttime as well. Set the alarm to finish all your tasks and get to bed using any problem-solving alarm app.
When your phone alarm rings and you have to solve a small problem to shut it off, it takes your mind slightly away from your current task, thus interrupting your concentration. This interruption helps you stop what you’re doing and makes you feel better about calling it a night and getting to bed.
Make the Change Gradually
If you’ve been going to bed at 1 am, don’t make a sudden decision to get to bed by 9 pm. Like with anything, if you want to stop sleep procrastination, you need to set reasonable goals.
This is because your biological clock can only reset at a rate of one hour per day and in some individuals, this reset may even take longer. However, in general, when you’re trying to make a behavioral change, it’s wiser to set attainable milestones to reach one big goal, instead of trying to jump to the finish line in one go.
To make your sleep goals sustainable, you need to give your body sufficient time to adjust as you slowly bring your bedtime closer. Therefore, if you sleep at 1 am every night, try setting the alarm for 11:30 pm, so that you have enough time to hit the bed by 12:30 am. The next day, aim to sleep at 12:00 am and so on.
Also, if you aren’t tired enough and fail to fall asleep after 10 to 15 minutes of trying, get up, and do something else. One main feature of cognitive behavior therapy for sleeplessness is stimulus control. This aims to link your bed with sleeping and relaxation – and not with stimulating activities, such as checking your phone or watching TV.
A principle of stimulus control is to go to bed only when you tired and limit your bed-related activities to sleep and sex. If you don’t feel sleepy, enter a dark, quiet place outside your room, and perform any calming activity. Once you’re relaxed enough, enter your room and try to sleep again. Understand that you may not feel sleepy right away so permit yourself to fail, so as long as you continue attempting to go to bed at a set time.
Set an Environment to Avoid Objections
One primary reason most of us don’t fulfill our goals is that we don’t plan for them specifically, and appropriately. Think about what your evening should look like. For example, have dinner at 7 pm, finish some work by 8 pm, watch one episode of this show on Netflix and finish by 9:30 pm, brush my teeth and get to bed by 10:30 pm.
This sounds like a fantastic plan, however, as your day goes by and your energy and attention span gets exhausted, your willpower may not be powerful enough to help you stick through your plan. You may end up watching two episodes of your show instead of one, or you may fit in a couple of other tasks you had no intention of completing when you started your day.
To make your plan more bulletproof, be super-specific about it. Identify possible objections and plan around them. This will help you design an environment where it is more difficult for you to get distracted and abandon your original plan. Once you’ve mapped out your plan, make it more actionable by setting reminders so that you don’t lose track of time. This can be done by setting alarms in your phone for ending each task or downloading a time management app.
Setting up reminders will not only alert you at the right time, but they’ll also help you develop proper time management habits by creating triggers for specific behaviors. Also, you can also set external cues, such as hiding the remote to stop you from watching TV or placing your TV outside your bedroom.
Make It Public
Making a public commitment, for example by tweeting your newly set sleep goal, or sharing it with a friend or loved one, is a great way to develop accountability for yourself. Since you don’t want others to find that you’ve failed to follow through with your bedtime commitment, it’s more likely that you will honor it. According to a study published in the SSRN Electronic Journal, making a public commitment increases resistance to attitude change.
Do this right now. Determine what time you will go to bed tonight and text a friend telling them about your goal. Commit to letting them know if you’ve missed your bedtime. A better technique is to tweet or post on your Facebook that you’re going to bed at this time. If you’re online past your bedtime, your friends will see it!
Remind Yourself Why You Want to Sleep Early
One of the best ways to maintain your willpower is to remind yourself why you started. Perhaps you want to be able to sleep 8 hours, wake up early, and don’t feel tired. Maybe you’re sick of feeling guilty or regretful of your bedtime habits. The following are some important reasons you can add to your arsenal to force yourself to sleep on time every night.
Sleeping Early Will Make You Worry Less
According to research published in Cognitive Therapy and Research, people who sleep late are more likely to have recurrent negative thoughts that keep them from falling asleep early. Staying up late also elevates stress and increases your risk for depression. Luckily, going to bed early will help put your thoughts in perspective, help you deal with your emotions better, and improve your problem-solving ability.
It Makes You More Productive
We’ve all been in the situation where we’re blankly staring at our computer screens, trying to finish a report that’s due the next day – but nothing’s happening. Your lack of sleep is making your brain unable to perform basic functions, such as remembering, concentrating, and problem-solving. Furthermore, a lack of REM sleep (dream state) can severely inhibit your creative thinking skills. On the other hand, getting 8 hours of shuteye can boost your brain function, and help you start your day feeling fresh and ready to take care of business.
Lowers Your Risk of Chronic Diseases
Your risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes, and kidney disease can all be lowered by getting to bed early and getting 8 hours of sleep. When you sleep, your body is still working, performing tissue repair and development on your muscles, heart, brain, and blood vessels – to keep disease distant. When you skimp on sleep, you hurt your nightly maintenance, eventually causing vital parts to wear out.
There will be nights when you’ll sit awake in bed, not being able to fall asleep. You’ll have thoughts racing through your head, and you may have to sit through several minutes of boredom because you aren’t sleepy enough yet.
Eventually, your body will get the message. Just make sure you don’t look at a screen, don’t have alcohol, dinner, or sugar too close to bedtime, and avoid caffeine during evening hours. Also, if you work out in the morning and avoid taking naps, going to bed at a set time every night will feel easier.
Make sure you have an alarm set for the night so that you can finish all your night’s tasks before it’s time to hit the bed. Have patience, and don’t give yourself a hard time if you fail. Simply leave your room, get your mind to relax, and try again.