I was wondering about this question in my own life. I used to stay up ’till midnight at the earliest, even though my body wanted sleep. I could feel my body’s need to rest, but I ignored it. Mostly, it was to watch television shows that I didn’t care about or read TMZ-like news or play Candy Crush. Now that I think about it, that just sounds ridiculous. Why would someone do this?
Well, let me see if this makes sense … subconsciously, we are frequently doing a cost and benefit analysis. Should I do this or that? Which one benefits me the most? What if you have sleep apnea and your sleep experience is not very pleasant. Your body thinks … hmm, when I put my head down to rest, my blood pressure goes up, my heart rate increases, I am suffocating … this is not a good thing. So, your mind stores that information away for later decision making. Just like when you were little and touched something hot by accident, let’s say a hot iron or a hot pot. You inherently knew after that incident, not to touch those items because it would cause pain. This is how we learn. Doesn’t it make sense that our minds learn to delay the sleep experience for as long as possible, when it is unpleasant. It’s possible that staying up late has nothing to do with your “bad habits”. Maybe this is why so many people don’t go to sleep earlier, especially when they know that restful sleep is important. It just isn’t as important as delaying the unpleasantness of their “version” of sleep.
Now, I go to bed much earlier because I enjoy the feeling of getting restful sleep. I enjoy waking up slowly and more relaxed than before, when I had severe sleep apnea. If you have another theory about staying up late for no good reason, I would love to hear about it … click on the comment link below.
image: Sander van der Wel from Netherlands, Wikimedia Commons