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Why Do We Procrastinate Sleep Even When We’re Tired?

Everyone has avoided going to bed even when tired, no matter how delicious it feels to rest after a long day. You know you should be going to sleep, yet you find something meaningless to distract you. This phenomenon varies from person to person, with some experiencing it repeatedly and with others succumbing to sleep without much of a fuss.

While this problem with sleep has existed forever, Popular Science reports that psychologists are only just now giving it a name. “Bedtime procrastination” is a common, yet largely misunderstood phenomenon. It’s not insomnia or the fact that you have a pressing issue that keeps you awake; it’s just delaying the inevitable and staying up for no particular reason.

Groups of scientists from different areas have different perspectives on why this phenomenon occurs. A team of psychologists from the Netherlands, who were the first to coin the term, chalk bedtime procrastination to poor self-regulation. Another group of scientists from Germany recently published a study that claims that night owls delay going to bed because they have a genetic predisposition to do so. Both groups of scientists have a point.

Researchers stress the importance of the lack of self-control. These researchers surveyed over 2,400 people and found that 53 percent of them went to bed later than they wanted to at least twice a week. These people also admitted to procrastinating in other areas of their lives and having lower self-control. These researchers theorize that even though sleep is pleasant, some people put it off in order to avoid dealing with the last chores of the day (teeth brushing, setting an alarm, etc.), which can sometimes feel impossible to get through.

The German scientists have a different stance, putting most of the blame on our inner body clocks. They claim that some people are genetically predisposed to be alert at night. Jana Kühnel, a psychologist from Ulm University, says that delaying your bedtime is different than other forms of procrastination, because with sleep, you don’t have full control of failing to go to bed. “The intention to go to bed earlier is not enough. Biological processes need to support this intention.”

While more research is needed to fully understand bedtime procrastination, it’s clear that a lot of factors need to be taken into account, and that there’s a decision making process involved. Due to people’s internal body clocks and their habits, some have an easier time than others when it comes to getting enough sleep.

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