The Explanations People Give for Going to Bed Late: A Qualitative Study of the Varieties of Bedtime Procrastination

Sanne Nauts, Bart A. Kamphorst*, Wim Stut, Denise T.D. De Ridder, Joel H. Anderson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Background/Objective: Bedtime procrastination is a prevalent cause of sleep deprivation, but little is known about why people delay their bedtimes. In the present research, we conducted a qualitative study with bedtime procrastinators to classify their self-reported reasons for later-than-intended bedtime. Participants: Participants (N = 17) were selected who frequently engaged in bedtime procrastination, but whose sleep was not otherwise affected by diagnosed sleep disorders or shift work. Method: We conducted in-depth, semistructured interviews and used thematic analysis to identify commonly recurring themes in the interviews. Results and conclusions: Three emerging themes were identified: deliberate procrastination, mindless procrastination, and strategic delay. For the form of procrastination we classified as deliberate procrastination, participants typically reported wilfully delaying their bedtime because they felt they deserved some time for themselves. For the category of mindless procrastination, a paradigmatic aspect was that participants lost track of the time due to being immersed in their evening activities. Finally, participants who engaged in strategic delay reported going to bed late because they felt they needed to in order to fall asleep (more quickly), which suggests that despite describing themselves as “procrastinating,” their bedtime delay may actually be linked to undiagnosed insomnia. The conceptual distinctions drawn in this paper deepen our understanding of bedtime delay and may be helpful for designing effective interventions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)753-762
Number of pages10
JournalBehavioral Sleep Medicine
Issue number6
Early online date30 Jul 2018
Publication statusPublished - 2019


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