The older we get, the more precious sleep becomes. A lack of sleep becomes more evident on our faces, in our moods, in our performance, and in our creativity. And while we learn that we absolutely love sleep and a restorative, restful night, daily distractions can creep up late into after-dark, keeping us plugged in and fighting bedtime like a toddler. What’s up with that?
It’s so easy to sleep-sabotage ourselves, especially in the age of tech and chronic stress that we live in. Not only is there an endless stream of news in the tiny device we keep on our person at all times, but while so many of us are working from home, “business hours” can get a little nebulous. When is it appropriate to send out that last Slack of the night? Seeing more emails roll in at 8 p.m.? Better get to that.
With all this time plugged into devices, our jobs, and stressing about the events of the world, it’s hard to feel like we have adequate “me” time, or unwind time to quite literally do whatever the [email protected]*$k we want. It’s no wonder that when our brains start to shut down, we opt for some mindless, time-sucking activities that feel numb and safe, rather than closing our eyes and resting so that we can do it all again as soon as we wake. However, depending on our chronotype, these mindless dopamine hits may be doing more harm than good.
Dr. Michael Breus, a sleep expert known as The Sleep Doctor, addresses what we’ve all been thinking.
“Sleep procrastination is now at an all-time high! Why is this? I think there are several reasons: first, all of our schedules seem to have been thrown out the window. Not following a bedtime schedule will absolutely lead to sleep procrastination. If your brain knows consistently when to go to bed, that’s when you get tired, and then you avoid this issue.”
For many of us, it’s a challenge to stick to a hard and fast bedtime, especially when there’s no office we have to be at the next day. We know we may have a little extra time in bed in the morning, or aren’t worrying about getting ready and keeping up our appearance. However, sleep cycles operate best on a rhythm. Dr. Breus will explain.
“Next is knowing when to go to bed. Did you know that we all have our own individual genetically predetermined sleep schedules called chronotypes? If you want to see what yours is and when to go to bed to avoid sleep procrastination, check out Chronoquiz. Going to bed on your chrono-typical schedule will help you reduce and avoid sleep procrastination.” When we are aware of what’s best for us individually based on data, we can do what aligns best for us.
“Finally, look at what activities you are doing before bed. Many people who suffer are playing with their phone, watching movies, etc. I ask people to use my technique called the Power Down Hour. Here, you take the hour before bed and split it into three 20-minute segments. One for things that need to be done (this helps with any last-minute procrastination issues), 20 minutes for hygiene, and 20 minutes for relaxation, meditation, prayer, etc. (not social media).”
This Power Down Hour is crucial for setting the tone for a set sleep time. Carve out a little time for mindless activities prior to your PDH, and hold yourself accountable for your activities that lead to restful sleep. Getting ourselves into a sleep schedule will also help program our sleep and wakefulness, making it easier to fall asleep each night, and easier to wake up each morning at the same time.
A little game-planning and personal awareness are how we sabotage our tendency to sabotage. We challenge you to look into your chronotype and try a PDH tonight. Sweet dreams.