New psychology research has linked death anxiety to bedtime procrastination

Men who are more disturbed by the thought of their own mortality are more likely to stay up past their intended bedtime, according to a new study published in The Journal of General Psychology.

“Time spent during sleep is not a period of time lived consciously and may take away from individuals’ total life span. In other words, the less sleep one has, the more time he/she has left to live,” the authors of the study explained.

“Thus, it could be asserted that individuals who fear death or who are anxious about death may have preconscious or unconscious aversive attitudes towards sleeping, and as a consequence, they may try to avoid it by procrastinating at bedtime.”

The researchers surveyed 229 Turkish participants regarding their sleeping behaviors, attitudes about death, self-control, and several other factors.

After controlling for age, having children, marital status, employment, gender, self-control, and circadian energy, the researchers found that death anxiety was a significant predictor of bedtime procrastination, but only for male participants.

In other words, men who agreed with statements like “I am disturbed by the finality of death” also tended to agree with statements like “I go to bed later than I had intended.”

But why is there no link between death anxiety and bedtime procrastination for women? The researchers believe it could come down to differences in risk taking.

Previous research has found that reminders of death tend to increase risk-taking attitudes among men but not women. “While bedtime procrastinators are usually aware of the results of their actions (e.g., being tired the next day, having diminished concentration, attention, and productivity), they intentionally choose to behave that way; and take the risk of being worse off,” the researchers said.

Of course, death anxiety is just one factor among many related to bedtime procrastination. For example, there also appears to be a link between bedtime procrastination and circadian chronotypes, which is in part determined by genetics. Those with late chronotypes are more likely to procrastinate their bedtime.

“All in all, this preliminary study was an exploratory one that attempted to examine the relation between death anxiety and a newly emerging concept of bedtime procrastination. Though the study provided some promising results, further studies are required to expand the scope of these findings,” the researchers concluded.

The study, “Life is short, stay awake: Death anxiety and bedtime procrastination“, was authored by Kutlu Kağan Türkarslan, Deniz Okay, Mustafa Çevrim, and Özlem Bozo.