Updated: May 8
Bedtime is one of the most procrastinated tasks these days. All of us lead busy lives and feel as if there’s never enough time to do it all.
Bedtime often gets pushed later and later due to us (purposefully or accidentally) prioritizing other things such as finishing up work or schoolwork, binging Netflix, catching up on laundry, gaming with friends, mindlessly scrolling through TikTok, or making art. Bedtime Procrastination occurs for a number of reasons for all of us and is especially a struggle for folks with ADHD. For a more in-depth exploration of what Bedtime Procrastination is and why it happens, check out a previous article of mine, "Bedtime Procrastination Part 1: Why Some Folks—Even Adults—Dread Bedtime."
So can we do to prevent Bedtime Procrastination or break the cycle when we are stuck in it? Here are a couple of ideas:
Schedule Free Time
One of the primary reasons why folks put off sleep is because they’d rather be doing something else they didn’t feel they had time for. Typically people are up late gaming, watching TV, hanging out with friends online, or scrolling through social media because they had a busy, stressful day and want to unwind. Sometimes folks feel a sense of guilt for doing leisure activities during the day and feel as if they have to do it at night when others are sleeping. But, scheduling free time is important.
Free time to do relaxing and enjoyable things is essential to our mental health and should be built into our day guilt-free. Intentionally carve out time to do the things you enjoy. Schedule it for a set amount of time and use an alarm or timer to help you hold yourself accountable for when that time is up. This way, you can wholeheartedly enjoy that time and don’t have to feel that sense of guilt or looming stress about other activities left undone. When the time is up, move on to the next scheduled task, such as returning to life responsibilities or getting to bed.
Visualize Past Struggles and Future Successes
When we are down the hole of mindless scrolling, binge-watching, or gaming, we are very entrenched in the present moment and have difficulty zooming out. For folks with ADHD or other executive function difficulties, it is especially difficult to think ahead and plan. It is helpful to practice thinking backward and forward to help make good decisions. Pause and intentionally think backward to how it felt to wake up this morning. When your alarm went off, did you feel rested? Or did you feel incredibly groggy, and therefore sluggish? After getting the number of hours of sleep you got last night, how did you feel today?
Remind yourself of times in the past when it felt really terrible to be stuck in the sleep procrastination cycle. Recalling those bad moments can help you prevent them from happening in the future. To practice thinking ahead, ask yourself, “What am I doing right now that can help future me?” Think ahead to what it will feel like waking up tomorrow if you go to bed at 10pm instead of 2am. Visualize what it might be like to wake up feeling refreshed.
If you have a hard time remembering to ask yourself these questions, set a reminder on your phone or device that goes off every hour. When the reminder goes off, take a moment to zoom out and re-evaluate where you stand. Take just a minute to ask yourself if it’s in your best interest to continue doing what you are doing. Or take that as an opportunity to move on to the next task.
Set Yourself Up For Sleep
We often get caught up in thinking that sleep is boring and can be put on the back burner. You might even think of yourself as someone who can function on only a couple hours of sleep. But take some time to remind yourself of how essential sleep is for brain function, physical wellness and recovery, and emotional stability. For more info on the importance of sleep, click here.
Folks with a diagnosis of ADHD and/or ASD often have differences in their circadian rhythms and melatonin production. That means that their internal clock has a harder time naturally prompting their body that it’s time for sleep. When you don’t feel like going to sleep—you’re exactly right! You must help your body into a state of feeling ready for sleep. One of the most difficult, yet most important ways to do this is to shut off screens at least an hour before your intended bedtime. So many of us use our phone, computer, or TV all the way up until we feel exhausted. Challenge yourself to find some screen-less activities to decompress before bedtime. Reading, journaling, coloring, knitting/crocheting, stretching, taking a bath, using a weighted blanket, or meditating are just a few. A google search and some of the articles linked above can help you explore more ways to help your body enter into sleep-mode.