A while ago I read a story on a subreddit that hit close to home: the person complained to the community that they are addicted to staying up late browsing the internet. This is interfering with their ability to function holding a job and going to school. They would sleep late into the morning, and wake up exhausted, feeling unmotivated and barely being able to get through the day. At the end of the post, they declared that they were tired of feeling this way and expressed a desire to change.
My heart went out to this person because I’ve been in their shoes. I too had an internet fix, where I would stay up extreme hours just to browse random junk like news, videos, discussion boards, etc. Why? As I’ve learned the hard way, not structuring your time properly will make you feel like a victim of circumstance. So if you are working in a job or taking classes at school, those hours are not “your time.” You stay late for work or classes, and then return to relax on “your time”, which means relaxing to a movie, or to the extreme, internet browsing. In that negative mindset, you are not looking forward to the next work or school day, so feel entitled to take up as much “me time” as you can. Having technology on call 24/7 makes it even more challenging for self discipline.
I used to be a night owl and didn’t shape up until I joined the military. Even then, the self discipline has to come from within. Once I was out of bootcamp and had a job, the military was not going to ‘force’ me to go to sleep at a decent hour. I needed to have the desire to go to bed on time and just do it. Whatever was on my mind, or what I “needed” to look up/research could wait. I read interesting article on this subject which actually has a name, “revenge sleep procrastination”
To summarize, it’s sacrificing sleep for leisure activities that can’t be accomplished during the day. According to the article, it’s a way of taking back control, or having “revenge” on the daytime hours that don’t offer your enjoyment.
The negative effects result in exhaustion during the day and low self-esteem, among others. So, the negatives are obvious. Now we have a desire to change, how to go about it?
There’s Japanese concept called “Kaizen” 改善 which means slow ‘continuous improvement.’ The idea, originally used by Toyota to make small, continuous changes to their production process, has been adapted for individuals as a mindset for self-improvement. The idea is that it’s difficult to go from 0 to 100 overnight. You need to trick your brain to take ridiculously easy steps where it won’t be able to sabotage or talk your way out of implementing those changes. Something as small as setting your running shoes next to your door to get into the habit of running on a regular basis.
Where does this apply for sleep? One idea could be to try going to bed early just once a week. If that’s too much a challenge, maybe twice a month. Alternatively, a different strategy could be going to bed one hour earlier each day. If that is too challenging, start with 30 minutes earlier. The key is to be consistent, applying small changes a little at a time. So something as small as 10 minutes early could be better than nothing as long as it’s applied consistently.
It’s also a good idea to couple this idea with establishing a sleep routine is also enjoyable so you want to look forward to going to sleep. Otherwise, sleep is seen as an interruption to valuable “me time”. and who wants that? To help with this, it’s good to put on some relaxing music to signal bedtime. For myself, I have a few genres of music I choose from, including “Sleep classical”, or “Sleep ambient”, like this one:
Once you’re all ready to go and lying down, your mind could still be wandering. Here I like to employ visualizations to go along with the music. For sleep ambient music, I imagine myself in a calm, fantasy setting, leaving past regrets and life stress behind, as well as upcoming “to do” lists. I breathe and allow the music to soothe and calm me. It’s great to experiment and see what works for you. Take this Japanese onsen (hot springs) ambient video for example:
I’ve also read that foods to help you become drowsy include cherries/cherry juice and oatmeal which have the melatonin, which your brain produces in response to darkness. Without resorting to supplements, foods might be a good starting point.
These are some tips I offered to the distressed reddit user. I hope they offered some help.
I know breaking an addiction is not easy, but if we can slowly introduce pleasant ways to replace the negative habit with a positive one, all the better.