The tax return, colon cancer screening, the curtains that urgently need to be put in the washing machine – many things can be put off with the sentence “Sometime later, but not now!”. This includes our sleep.

There is now even a term for the phenomenon of sleep delay: “Revenge Bedtime Procrastination”: “By this we mean repeatedly going to bed much too late, although the opportunity is given and we know that we will be dead tired the next day become”, explains the psychologist and author Anna Höcker (“Today I really start!”).

Anyone who hears the term “Revenge Bedtime Procrastination” for the first time may stumble across the word part “Revenge”, which translated from English can also mean “revenge”. Anna Höcker explains what’s behind it: “Through this word addition, it is implicitly assumed that it is a question of behavior that is intended to regain leisure time, joy and meaning in the evening hours.” everyday life, in which many people are confronted with many obligations and high expectations.

The catch: Many people don’t spend the extra time gained in the evening with a good book, a creative hobby or in the bathtub, but mostly in front of the screen.

Höcker is not surprised: “Social media consumption, Netflix and Co. are activities that are not very strenuous and provide a short-term reward.” And they invite you to get stuck, according to the motto: Oh, a series episode or a video on Instagram – that’s still possible!

The pandemic has reinforced this behavior, says Alfred Wiater, who works on the subject as a sleep doctor. Home office, childcare, household and pandemic concerns have shrunk the opportunities for leisure and recreation. “So it makes sense, when it’s finally quiet in the evening, to finally distract yourself,” says Wiater.

What at 11:30 p.m. still feels like self-care and “I’m doing something good for myself by taking time for myself” can have undesirable long-term health consequences.

Because sleep procrastination quickly leads to a lack of sleep, which is not to be trifled with, says Wiater. Most people know from their own experience that too little sleep can take a toll on your ability to concentrate and perform. “The risk of mistakes and accidents also increases due to a lack of sleep,” reminds the sleep doctor. Bad mood is also associated with it.

In addition: The immune system, the cardiovascular system and the metabolism need enough sleep to be able to work well and healthily. True self-care, then, is a night’s rest designed to get enough sleep.

But how do you get rid of sleep procrastination? The good news is that procrastination – in general – is a behavior that can be unlearned. “Only a small proportion of people who procrastinate need professional treatment,” says Wiater. Anyone who feels a high level of suffering and can hardly cope with everyday life because of the constant procrastination can think about psychotherapy. Everyone else can make a difference even with minor changes.

As a first step, Anna Höcker advises asking yourself what function sleep procrastination has for you. Is it about making up for lost time for yourself? “Then you should bring more joy, lightness, freedom and something meaningful to your day so that you don’t have the feeling of having to steal this from the night.”

On the other hand, anyone who puts off the night’s sleep because the moment the light is switched off causes brooding, you can resolve to work through the problems behind it.

But it is also possible that you are not affected by sleep procrastination at all, but simply have a body that cannot do much with sleep before midnight. “Perhaps everyday life can then be structured in such a way that it fits better with the biorhythm, for example through a flextime model at work,” advises Höcker.

Anyone who has gotten to the bottom of sleep procrastination can use little tricks to break the habit. The most important measure is to set the alarm clock, says Alfred Wiater. But not in the morning to get up on time. But in the evening. The ringing reminds you of the time when you usually go to bed to get enough sleep.

In order not to be tempted to get stuck on your smartphone, you can also create a rule for yourself that technical devices are taboo in the 30 minutes before bed.

Clearly formulated if-then statements help to ensure that your own plans are not watered down. An example: When this show is over or when the alarm clock rings, I get ready for bed. Anna Höcker thinks this is effective: “Psychological research shows that this is an effective method of persevering with behavioral changes and forming stable habits.”

In any case, it is helpful to establish a new evening ritual. Anyone who manages to replace passive scrolling on their smartphone with reading, crossword puzzles, relaxation exercises or drinking a cup of herbal tea, for example, has a good chance of sending procrastination out the bedroom door.

“Embarrassing – doesn’t exist” is the WELT knowledge podcast that breaks with body taboos. Subscribe to the podcast on Spotify, Apple Podcasts and Deezer, among others. Or directly via RSS feed.

This article was first published in November 2021.