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Can’t sleep at night? Study says it’s because you’re easily bored

By SAAB LARIOSA Published Apr 07, 2021 3:34 pm

We all have those moments late at night when we’re forcing our body to go to sleep, but soon we’re back to reaching for our phones.

 There’s a difference between not being able to sleep and actually choosing not to fall asleep, and researchers from James Cook University in Singapore found that the difference could lie in how bored we get. Hear us out.

The correlational study published in the Personality and Individual Differences journal suggests that the inability to be “mindfully attentive” plays a big role in sleep quality. They also found that “boredom proneness” is vital in committing bedtime procrastination, or procrastinating sleep time to do other things. Like saying “one last episode” over and over again.

To get to this conclusion, the research gathered 270 participants between 18 and 69 and asked them to take the Bedtime Procrastination Scale and Groningen Sleep Quality Scale, along with self-measured scales for boredom proneness, fidgeting, mind wandering, and mindful attention.

They found that those who were more prone to feeling bored tended to also have low levels of mindful attention. For example, those who agreed with statements like “Unless I am doing something exciting, even dangerous, I feel half-dead and dull” also agreed with statements like “I do jobs or tasks automatically, without being aware of what I’m doing.” 

These factors were then associated with increased bedtime procrastination. It seems that the more people want things to excite them, the more they feel the need to stay awake for it—even if they should just be sleeping.

To curb this, study author Ai Ni Teoh suggested that late-sleepers “practice mindfulness” in their everyday tasks. This means not just doing things automatically or for the heck of it, but doing it with purpose and intention. It’s easier said than done during this pandemic, but the effect on our sleep quality and mental health can do wonders. 

Another suggestion from Teoh is to “plan our bedtime and evening schedule well such that a sense of boredom doesn’t kick in. For instance, if we need more time to unwind before going to bed, then reserve sufficient time and plan activities that help us unwind.”

“Since inattention is a mechanism leading to bedtime procrastination, we should improve our mindful attention to focus on tasks, schedule, and bedtime. Perhaps practicing mindfulness is a useful approach,” Teoh furthered.

Photo from Mikotora via Pexels