The dark circles under the eyes are getting darker, the mood is getting more irritable and still – we just don’t want to sleep. At least not yet. Instead, we scroll through Instagram feeds for hours and binge the series on and on, defying fatigue to no avail. The energy hole greets you in the morning.

The endless delaying of going to bed has a name: bedtime procrastination. This is a relatively new phenomenon. It was first named by the Dutch social and behavioral researcher Floor M. Kroese in 2014. Put simply, the term means that sleep is deliberately postponed against better judgment, even though there is no need for it. But why?

A simple answer: because we don’t have ourselves under control. The results of Kroese’s study indicate that there is a connection between – and this is probably not surprising – a lack of self-control and putting off going to bed. Those who find it difficult to eat just one piece of chocolate instead of the whole bar, those who prefer to stay on the sofa even though they wanted to go jogging half an hour ago, are also, according to the researchers’ theory, more likely to do so to postpone sleep. In short: people who procrastinate in one area usually do the same in others.

“People who have a lot of freedom to act in their job are particularly at risk for procrastination in general – i.e. executives, managers, students and freelancers such as lawyers, architects or journalists,” quotes “National Geographic” the coach and psychological psychotherapist Anna Höcker. Together with the procrastination clinic at the University of Münster, she has developed an online self-test that reveals, free of charge and quickly, how strong your own procrastination behavior is compared to that of other people.

The tendency to bedtime procrastination could also simply be a matter of personality. Three researchers led by psychologist Jana Kühnel from the University of Vienna came to this study result. Accordingly, the participants’ biological clock had an influence on whether they procrastinated at night or not. It was mainly people of the “owl” chronotype, i.e. so-called evening people, who found it difficult to go to sleep.

Their opponents, the “larks”, however, had fewer problems with it. In another study, researchers also found evidence that young people, women and students are more often affected by bedtime procrastination. However, other factors such as place of residence, level of education or marital status did not seem to have any influence.

Well, and then there’s something called Revenge Bedtime Procrastination. A term that comes from the Middle Country and roughly means “to go to bed late for revenge.” In China, working days are long and free time is in short supply. The time before sleep is one of the few moments that can be filled as you wish.

Revenge Bedtime Procrastination is a kind of protest against living conditions in which the work-life balance is out of balance. A protest that is actually at the detriment of the protester, because instead of recovering, the lack of sleep is fueled. This is a conscious decision, a kind of act of revenge and not an unplanned postponement, as described by its sister phenomenon, bedtime procrastination.

It is difficult to estimate how many people would rather stick matches in their eyes than go to sleep at a reasonable hour. The study situation is thin. There is currently no representative data. However, Kroese and her team provided the first evidence back in 2014. In their study carried out in the Netherlands, around half of the 2,637 respondents said that they said they went to bed later than planned on three or more days a week for no reason. More than a third said this happens to them at least once a week. As a result, almost everyone felt exhausted during the day. Psychologist Jana Kühnel also conducted a study on the topic. This suggests that Germans delay their night’s sleep to a similar extent.

According to the German Society for Sleep Research and Sleep Medicine, insomnia is one of the most common disorders worldwide. An estimated 5 to 10 percent of Germans have difficulty falling asleep in the evening and/or staying asleep at night over a longer period of time. The result: exhaustion, reduced performance and behavioral or mood disorders during the day. In the long term, sleep deprivation can also increase the risk of developing depression, anxiety disorders, and other illnesses.

And what helps? According to psychotherapist Höcker, bedtime procrastination, like procrastination, is a learned behavior that can be unlearned. “For many, a soft solution is enough,” Höcker told National Geographic. “If you find that you often get stuck on your cell phone, the Internet, Netflix, etc., avoid them about half an hour before you go to bed.” Your tip: limit the time for these “dangers of procrastination” and set an alarm clock. Or simply not taking the sources of evil, such as your smartphone, to bed. It also helps to develop new rituals that help you relax.

Quellen: Studie: Bedtime procrastiantion, Studie: Why Don’t You Go to Bed on Time?, Studie 2: Bedtime procrastination, Spektrum, DGSM, National Geographic