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Researchers Identify New Type of Procrastination

By Ross Pomeroy

In 2008, a nameless commenter at Procrastinator's Anonymous asked a question that garnered significant response:

"I often find myself delaying my bedtime hour, even when I have nothing important that keeps me from going to bed. It's an odd feeling, because I feel sleepy. Can we even call this 'procrastination'? I'm not sure."

Six years later, researchers from Utrecht University have an answer: Yes.

The Centers for Disease control labels insufficient sleep a "public health epidemic." Thirty percent of adults report sleeping fewer than six hours per night. That's not healthy. According to the CDC, "Persons experiencing sleep insufficiency are... more likely to suffer from chronic diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, depression, and obesity, as well as from cancer, increased mortality, and reduced quality of life and productivity." Even more startling, a 2009 survey found that one in twenty individuals admitted to dozing off behind the wheel in the previous month.

Clearly, we need more sleep. So why aren't we getting it? Some of the more popular reasons include artificial lighting, stress, and restrictive work hours. Now, in a new study published to Frontiers in Psychology, Floor Kroese, an assistant professor in psychology at Utrecht University, and a team of researchers put forward the notion that we don't get enough sleep because... meh.

In other words, we procrastinate.

The textbook definition of procrastination is a “voluntary delay of an intended course of action despite expecting to be worse off for the delay." At least half of college students do it on academics and a tenth of the general population procrastinates chronically.

In her study, Kroese surveyed 177 individuals via Amazon's Mechanical Turk on all sorts of lifestyle and demographic factors, sleep and inclination to procrastinate among them. Bedtime procrastination was gauged by assessing subjects' level of agreement with statements like "I go to bed later than I had intended" and "I easily get distracted by things when I actually would like to go to bed." Digging into the data, Kroese found moderate levels of bedtime procrastination among the survey population. She also found that it was negatively correlated with reported hours of sleep and positively correlated with fatigue and insufficient sleep.

But the results prompt some obvious skepticism. It's not like sleep is a chore, so why would people procrastinate on it?

"We speculate that it is not so much a matter of not wanting to sleep, but rather of not wanting to quit other activities," Kroese explains. Instead of going to sleep, it's "one more episode" on Netflix or "one more quest" on that video game.

"Bedtime procrastination may be a relatively modern phenomenon," she adds.

For those bedtime procrastinators out there, fixing their problem could be a tall task. Sleep is nice, but watching people get beheaded on Game of Thrones, well, that's hard to contend with.

Source: Kroese F, De Ridder D, Evers C and Adriaanse M (2014). Bedtime Procrastination: Introducing a New Area of Procrastination. Front. Psychol. 5:611. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2014.00611

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