105: Vanessa Hill - Behavioural Scientist & Award-Winning Science Communicator: “Revenge Bedtime Procrastination”: What It Is & What You Can Do To Break The Habit!

Get ready to hit snooze on your Revenge Bedtime Procrastination with the delightfully entertaining & knowledgeable Vanessa Hill - the mastermind behind the hit YouTube and PBS series Brain Craft. (which boasts an impressive 600k+ subscribers!).

Join us as we learn about bedtime procrastination and how this growing phenomenon can lead to a vicious cycle of sleep deprivation.

But don't worry - we've got your back with practical tips on overcoming it and improving your sleep habits with a healthy dose of self-compassion. Vanessa will also share her sleep routine and reveal the most significant change she made to improve her own sleep.

So, if you want to set new systems & frameworks for your sleep and self, tune in to this podcast and discover the secrets to a good night's sleep.


Vanessa Hill is an award-winning science communicator and behavioural scientist, who studies sleep and habits at CQ University. Vanessa is the creator of the hit YouTube and PBS series, BrainCraft, and the YouTube Originals special Sleeping with Friends, an entertaining reality show about improving your sleep.

Vanessa aims to bridge the gap between scientific research and people’s daily well-being, and is passionate about creating media that promotes health, sleep, and behaviour change. 

In this episode, we discuss:

😴 Vanessa Hill's journey to becoming a recognizable influencer in the world of sleep. With over 600k subscribers on her YouTube channel, Brain Craft.

😴 The impact of bedtime procrastination on our sleep quality

😴 Vanessa believes that in order to help people improve their sleep, we must remind them that they AREN’T bad sleepers just because they had a rough night 

😴 What is revenge bedtime procrastination

😴 Bedtime procrastination and its links with weaken self-control

😴 How To Overcome (And Beat) Bedtime Procrastinating

😴 Doing things to improve our sleep is an act of self-compassion

😴 Vanessa Hill's sleep routine.

😴 What is the most significant change that Vanessa made to improve her sleep?


Huge shoutout to our sponsor: Biooptimizers!

They are my nightly source of magnesium supplementation

go to www.magbreakthrough.com/sleepisaskill for the kind I use every night!


Website: nessyhill.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/nessyhill

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/nessyhill/ 

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/nessyhill/
YouTube channel: youtube.com/braincraft,

Tiktok: https://www.tiktok.com/@braincraft

Sleep, sleep optimization, sleep better, health & wellness, bedtime procrastination, brain craft, youtube channel, behavior change strategies, behavior change techniques, behavioral change


The information contained on this podcast, our website, newsletter, and the resources available for download are not intended as, and shall not be understood or construed as, medical or health advice. The information contained on these platforms is not a substitute for medical or health advice from a professional who is aware of the facts and circumstances of your individual situation.

Mentioned Resources

Guest contacts


Welcome to the Sleep is a Skill podcast. My name is Mollie McGlocklin, and I own a company that optimizes sleep through technology, accountability and behavioral change. Each week I'll be interviewing world class experts, ranging from doctors, innovators, and thought leaders to give actionable tips and strategies that you can implement to become a more skillful sleeper.

Let's jump into your dose of practical sleep training.

Welcome to the Sleep is a Skill podcast, revenge, bedtime procrastination who cannot relate to this conundrum. When you have a given bedtime that you've kind of established for yourself, and yet you find yourself. Consistently really going up against your own creation. Why do we do these things? Well, we have the guest for you today to really unpack what's going on there, the latest science as to the why, and also very importantly, what can we do about it.

So Vanessa Hill is an award-winning science communicator and behavioral scientist who studies sleep and habits at CQ University. Vanessa is the creator of the hit YouTube and P B s series, brain Craft, and the YouTube original Special Sleeping With Friends, an entertaining reality show about improving your sleep.

Vanessa aims to bridge the gap between scientific research and people's daily wellbeing. And is passionate about creating media that promotes health, sleep, and behavioral change. So I get a lot of questions around sleep supplements, and I'm very hesitant to just throw out a whole laundry list of possibilities.

One, I don't think it's the most responsible thing to do. I really do believe in testing to see what types of supplements make sense for you. And two, because I really truly believe that most of the things that you can do to improve your sleep are behavioral, psychological, environmental in nature, and often don't cost a.

However, there is one supplement that I personally take every day and that I do feel quite comfortable with suggesting for most individuals to experiment with because of couple of reasons. It's high safety profile and high rates of deficiencies in our modern society. Some put the numbers as somewhere around 80% of the population being deficient in this one area, and that is magnesium.

So magnesium has been called the calming mineral, and some report that magnesium can increase gaba, which encourages relaxation on a cellular level, which is critical for sleep. Magnesium also plays a key role in regulating our body's stress response system. Those with magnesium deficiency usually have higher anxiety and stress levels, which negatively impacts sleep As.

Now before you go out and buy a magnesium supplement, it's important to understand that most magnesium products out there are either synthetic or they only have one to two forms of magnesium. When in reality, your body needs all seven forms of this essential sleep mineral. So that's why I recommend a product from my friends over at Bio Optimizers.

They have created something called the Magnesium Breakthrough, and taking this magnesium before bed helps you relax and wake up, refresh and energize. And while we don't recommend that you go two nuts on looking at all the sleep stage classifications on all your wearables. I will share anecdotally that many clients have reported improvements in their deep sleep trend numbers.

Again, I don't want you going nuts on the sleep stage classification numbers on your wearables, but I do wanna let you know about that because I know that many of you do reach out on questions of how to improve your deep sleep. So I also love that bio optimizers offers free shipping on select orders, and they offer a 365 day money back guarantee on all their products.

Plus they have a customer satisfaction rating of 99.3%. Very impressive, and you can get 10% off magnesium breakthrough. Again, this is the same magnesium that I use every single. And finally you can get 10% off magnesium breakthrough. Again, that's the magnesium supplement that I use every single night by going to www dot mag m a g.

So mag breakthrough.com/sleep as a skill, and be sure to use the code sleep as a skill for 10% off. And welcome to the Sleep is a Skill podcast. Such an honor to have Vanessa Hill here with us today. Oh my goodness, this is gonna be a fantastic and a needed episode cuz we're gonna focus on a few things, but particularly bedtime procrastination, uh, as part of her specialty and just has gone deep dive into the research.

So thank you so much, Vanessa, for taking the time to be here. It really means. Yeah, of course. It's so exciting to be on a podcast that is just about sleep. Yes, yes. Uh, I love that you could actually appreciate that. Uh, definitely. Fantastic. Yes, yes. Okay, so I know, I think the challenge for me in this conversation is how to squeeze out or try to extract as much information from.

From your brain, which is just so much in this world of sleep. So we're gonna do, yeah. So to begin, just for people that maybe are unfamiliar with your work, just getting a sense of how did you even find yourself in this line of work and how it relates to sleep. Yeah, it's such a random story actually. Uh, I think probably the, the headline would be, yeah, I became a sleep researcher because of YouTube comments, but that's weird.

Isn't that crazy? Yeah. Amazing. So I have a background in science communication and I had worked. For over a decade as a professional science communicator, I worked for a government science agency in Australia for many years. Then I moved to the US and I hosted a psychology and neuroscience show for P B S.

So I worked with P B S for five or six years. I went out at my own doing independent content creation and stuff like that. I made a reality TV show about sleep with YouTube originals. It was filmed fantastic in Hollywood. Yeah, it was. Full blown Hollywood reality TV show where people competed to try to improve their sleep over the course of a week.

It was super fun. So I've always been really interested in sleep and have made YouTube videos and things about sleep. My YouTube channel, which is called Brain Craft, is 10 years old this year. I actually made my first. Viral sleep video in, I think 2014 like that is how long I've been making media about Amazing sleep.

Yeah, it's been a really long time and it just kind of got to the point where about four years ago I was like, I had a really great career in media and content, but I just wanna go. Deeper, and I am an obsessive person. I don't know if this is a toxic train or if this, if this is a good train, relatable and I really get fixated on something, you know, I can spend four years researching it, which is the story of my PhD, I think.

Amazing. Yeah. So I met some people actually through the research process for this Sleep TV show that I made and. The thing about the YouTube comments is when you put a show out on YouTube Originals, they get syndicated, like Google TV and some different things like that, but it still has comments, which is so strange because if you made a show for Netflix or Hulu or something like that, it wouldn't have a comment section where people can just comments.

So we got a ton of comments on the show and just a lot on the media that I'd made over the years where people just really wanted to know. How to change their behavior and how to change their sleep habits. Yes. And so when we did the show, we went to all of the good places that you would go to. Places like the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, the C D C, recent journal articles, and we collated what you would call sleep hygiene tips, I suppose.

Sure. It's just a list of things that you would categorize under sleep hygiene and people were commenting and they were like, You have to be a Buddha to do all of these things. It's not possible to do all of these things. And these are things that I'm sure everyone has heard of. Like, sure, don't use technology two hours before bedtime.

Don't drink alcohol, don't smoke cigarettes, don't have caffeine within 10 hours of bedtime. Don't do this, don't do that. And it's really not realistic for ordinary, everyday people to do all of those things in a day because we just. Have that much self-control and we have habits that incorporate all of these other things.

So I went looking for answers when people liked that, how can you do this? How is this possible? And I was looking for strategies and interventions and kind of the best way for people to improve their sleep behavior. And I couldn't find any good information other than just laundry lists. Tips. Sure. All all these different tips and things that you could do, but nothing that was actually like a meaningful program or strategies or, or things like that.

And it just started eating away at me and I got to the point where I was like, you know, I think I'm gonna have to do this. And so I have actually spent, I'm in my fourth year of developing a behavior change program that specifically, Targets bedtime procrastination, which I can talk about a lot more, but that is how deep I have gone at this point.

Wow. Incredible. Well, this is very exciting and I love that you've scratched the itch of that, uh, intrigue and curiosity and made it your profession so important. And really, I think another piece of it is just you made. My experience of taking in some of your content is you've made it fun, you've made it interesting.

I mean, who would've thought we could have actually had a show devoted to people sleeping? How would we have thought that? And yet, you made this happen and really, really fantastic. I highly recommend. People one of course, subscribe to your YouTube. It's just a no-brainer, uh, no pun intended. And but secondly, they should absolutely check out where you're speaking to, this kind of viral content that kind of got created out of your interest and what you all put together, and it's just so important.

Yeah. The show was called Sleeping With. Friends, if people wanna check it out, it's, yes, it's fair's very fun. Yeah, I love it. And it's so, and it's like funny. There's comedic relief. Mm-hmm. But it's interest, it's fantastic. Okay, so from that place, bedtime procrastination. Define this. What is this? Who has this problem?

Let us know the whole world. A it. Yeah, sure. So as I mentioned, when I came into the sleep field, I wanted to find these new ways to intervene to improve people's sleep health. Yeah. And I was really interested in habits. 43% of our daily behaviors are habits. So if you can actually change these and crack into these and, and just kind of nudge them in a different direction, it can have a really big impact on our overall health.

So when I was kind of starting out on this journey, my PhD advisor said to me, well, look at this interesting new area. It would be really cool to intervene here and just kind of see what that looks like. Sure. So this was bedtime procrastination and the first research paper scientific journal article that came out about bedtime procrastination was in 2014, and you asked, you know, what is it?

The definition that they have in that is going to bed later than intended. While no external circumstances are accountable for doing. Got it. Okay. Who is, it's very word to that. It's very academic. It's very wordy. Basically when you put off going to bed. Yeah. But of your own accord, like you're not on call for work.

You don't have kids waking you up. You don't have a pet to take outside. Like it's really just you thinking like, ah, you know what? I'm gonna choose the short term. Gain over the long term gain, like a classic kind of procrastination situation where you are yeah, having this debate with yourself and you're reasoning and you're like, you know what?

I'm just gonna do something fun rather than going to sleep. So as I mentioned, this was first kind of. Identified in academia in 2014 when this paper came out, but this has been happening for so long. Yes. I think it just took us a while to catch up. Like for example, in the early nineties, Jerry Seinfeld did this sketch at the scanned, a standup bit called Morning Guy Night.

When he talks about himself having these different personalities like. Night guy is always out to get morning guy. Uhhuh morning guy hates night guy the next morning because he feels that crap sometimes. I think it's funny where comedians actually nail these aspects of human nature totally. Before we can kind of identify them and measure them and write scientific papers about them.

Yes. Absolutely amazing. So, right. And it's been happening for a while. I love mm-hmm. That routine too. That was so good. And do you feel like it's, and this is kind of just a, your take or mm-hmm. How you would think about this, but do you feel like it's going up in the instances of people dealing with this or we just have new, now we have the language for it.

Any kind of pan out on where we're at now with it? Like, you know, is it at epidemic levels? How do we think about this kinda numbers? Yeah, I mean there's a lot of different numbers about the prevalence of it, so we don't really have Yes, a good stat we can point to. Certainly like there's, there's some stats that say more than 50% of people do this three nights a week and things like that, which I think, I mean, we've all done it.

Everyone knows course what this is, and I think this is why it is so relatable to people, because people are like, yeah, I do that. And it's one of those things that you see a meme about and instant. You'll share it with someone like your partner or you'll like it or whatever, because you're like, yes, I, I identify with this.

Yes. So I think that people are definitely talking about it a lot more because there is now language for it. And in the media it's often called revenge, bedtime, procrastination. Yeah. And I will say it. Probably did peak in people like the, I'm trying to not use my academic terms here. I keep calling you.

Yes. Falling totally jargon. Rabbit hole. I was gonna say how I increase in prevalence, but like people were probably doing more of it during the pandemic. Sure. Cause that was really when it exploded in the media in. 20, 20, 21. There was so many media articles about their time procrastination. Like I had set up a Google alert for it because I'd started starting it a couple of years earlier and I was just getting like 10 articles a day, right?

Mm-hmm. Yeah. In the middle of 2020, it just went from nothing. It just kind of exploded. So there was this big interest in it, and I think some of that was because, People were, I mean, obviously very stressed, very anxious, like looking for ways to alleviate that, but also working from home and they didn't have a commute so we could push back our bedtime because we were pushing back the time that we were waking up as well.

Sure. Absolutely. Uh, I think that makes a ton of sense, and I'm sure every person listening can relate to this problem at greater, lesser extended, different periods of their life. So I'm so glad you're bringing attention to this. And how would you say bedtime procrastination is impacting our overall kind of sleep quality potential long-term consequences?

What do we see? Why is it bad? Yeah, it's really interesting, but I think something that I would love to talk about today is, It may not be that bad actually. I just wanna like take a step back, love it, and let's kind of think about what it is because I mean, it is bad for some people. Sure. It's not bad for everyone.

And the reason that I wanna talk about this is actually to do with. Self-compassion because a lot of people will get in their head that they're a bad sleeper. Yes. They can't sleep. They're just not good at it. They're doing this bad thing. It's ruining their days, and we need to be kind to ourselves, like actually doing things to improve your self-compassion is, yeah.

Related to improved sleep quality as well. So things just like journaling and meditating and positive self-talk and really just giving yourself a break. Yeah, so that's why I just wanna kind of go into some of the nuance, because we're on a sleep podcast. Yes. So we can just talk about a bit of the nuance with bedtime procrastination and when it perhaps isn't as.

As other situations. I'm just gonna underscore what you said. I think that's such an important point because often at least some of the people that are coming our way have a lot of labels and narratives around their sleep and often quite binary in nature. Mm-hmm. And it tends to be that black and white, this is bad, this is good.

And then that subsequent kind of, um, shame or guilt. So I love that you're underscoring that. So yeah, please share more about your, uh, kind of pH. Yeah, of course. Well, what we saw in the early bedtime procrastination research was just a lot of correlational studies. So a lot of people like sending out surveys where people would fill in a survey to measure bedtime procrastination, fill in a survey to measure sleep, and then you would kind of do a test on that to see how they were linked.

So from those, we found that bedtime procrastination was linked with lower self-control. Evening chronotype and various measures of screen time use and internet addiction and things like that. Sure. And then in those articles that I mentioned before, like a lot of the media articles, there was this narrative that emerged, which was, we have no willpower, we're staying up late, we're addicted to our phones, and this is all ruining our health.

So it was really. Negative and talking about how sure. How it is bad and it's ruining our sleep and it's bad for us. They call it in all the rest of it. Yeah. But what I kept coming back to is, well, what does this mean for people? Right? Like you can find Yeah. A correlation between people getting strangled by their bedsheets who live in the west or something.

Yeah. Like doesn't, sometimes it doesn't really mean that much. Like Totally. Yeah. You can just get two survey results and anything, the data. Maybe something's linked, so, mm-hmm. Yeah, so, so something that I was really interested in actually is, well, why are people doing this and what are they doing? And sure.

It got to this point where there had been maybe 30 or 40 studies done on bedtime procrastination, and none of them were qualitative. None of them were interview based studies where you would just sit down with a focus group or with a bunch of individual people and just ask them these kind of structured questions like, Why do you do this and what are you doing it for?

And these kind of open-ended things that are non-judgmental. So I was really interested in doing that and I did do that. We can, we can come back to those results. Yeah. In a minute. But the other thing that I was wondering is are there any other factors that can explain. These relationships, like for example, sure.

If the increase in screen time is associated or linked to poor sleep quality and more bedtime procrastination, like are these people working? Are they writing work emails? Like do they have deadlines? Are they socializing on their device? Are they in long distance relationships? Are they like chatting to people?

Like are they using the Headspace app? Like what are they actually doing on their phones? Mm. Because we kind of had this weird merging of technology with all aspects of our lives, but also with sleep aids, and a lot of those are tech based things and a lot of ways that we can wind down before bed as well.

It's just this question of what is procrastination actually? How can you measure it effectively and how bad is bedtime procrastination for sleep? So there are no good measures currently of bedtime procrastination that have used device based measures like actigraphy, like a smartwatch or P S G, which is what you would do in a sleep study.

And it's hard to do that because actually how do you measure. Me time on your phone in the evening, like how do you actually measure that? It's really, really hard in a lab setting. So that's kind of what I wanted to look into, to just kind of figure out like, what are people doing? Is it really bad, and why are they doing this?

Amazing, and I'm so glad you delved into that. It's so important cuz so many people that we'll work with that will say things like, once they heard that language, bedtime procrastination, they'd say, yes, that's me. That's me. Okay. How do I stop it? That would be kind of like the next. Piece of the puzzle.

Yeah. Or wanting to understand why do I do that? I just can't stop. I know it's bad. I, you know, here's the bad. I know it doesn't work, and this, that, and the other. Mm-hmm. And yet it just keeps happening in this like automaticity. What did you discover out of that kind of deep dive and how can we practically apply that when we're struggling with this?

All amazing questions. Um, I guess I give you like five questions in there. I tend to do that. Sorry about that questions. Ok. Well, the first thing I did was this big clinical review that was published last year in sleep medicine review. So it was when I did this huge database search and this is kind of a six month or longer process that involves about five researchers working on it where we go and we take the data from everything that's been published on bedtime, procrastination, and just kind of Sure do.

Other, we make a new data set and do this other data analysis on that. So from this big clinical review, we found that bedtime procrastination is linked to all of these bad sleep outcomes. So we just kind of wanted to then look and say, well, is it actually the bedtime procrastination or is it something else?

Like is there another factor kind of sitting in the middle of that relationship like. Our anxiety or the light from our devices or something like that is like that actually what we'd call the mechanism. Like is that actually why bedtime procrastination is linked to, to poor sleep. Still working on that question at the moment, but the next thing that I did was actually this qualitative study where we actually sat down.

Mm-hmm. Spoke to a whole bunch of people and just asked them all of these open-ended questions and. We did a thematic analysis on that, and it was so fascinating what came out of this because it was completely different to everything that was in the literature base where people had so many feelings about going.

To bed and they had all these different motivations that were really driven by a lot of it me time, like people were. And, and this is something that we've seen in memes for years. I just wanna say the memes. The memes, where are.

Yeah, tweetable. But the population that we're looking at is new workers because that's a really good time for people to change their behavior. Like they, in this fresh start period, they've just finished college and they're starting a new job, and it's a good time to build new habits. And people were just talking about dedicating the bulk of their waking hours to their employer where they didn't really enjoy their new jobs, they didn't have autonomy at work, they weren't satisfied.

And this kind of led to a desire for. Wanting to feel satisfied in the only free time that they had, so they would kind of create this free time or create this me time, I suppose, before they were going to sleep and keep pushing back their bedtime and pushing it back their bedtime. And this is what we see in the revenge.

Bedtime procrastination as well. That's. And spoken about a lot publicly where people describe their time as being stolen or lost by their employer. So that was a really big thing that we found. The other thing was that people just had a lot of negative feelings, like people would talk about having anxiety, they'd talk about worry and racing thoughts, overthinking, rumination, and.

The majority of people describe seeking out media, like using their phone in bed, their computer, watching tv, things like that as a way to distract themselves. And they would talk about, you know, the silence of the night and people just trying to cope with negative feelings by using media. And that wouldn't lead to them delaying their bedtime, but they were doing it just to try to calm the.

Basically and, and almost to relax their mind. So it's just so fascinating because up until this point, bedtime procrastination had been spoken about as this bad thing that was just due to a lack of self-control. But what we found is that people were doing it to calm themselves, to deal with anxiety, to deal with lack of autonomy at work.

Like just to cope with life in all different kinds of way. Sure. So the problem is that there's a point where it kind. It gets to this place where habit takes over and you're not thinking about it anymore. Yes. And it just starts to kind of push your bedtime later and later. And a lot of the people who were involved in this study reported getting, you know, four hours sleep, five hours sleep, like even less.

Mm-hmm. So it started out from a good place as a way to try to cope with something and then it, yeah, it just kind of went into this realm of like self sabotage at one. Wow. So interesting. And with your expertise in habits, uh, and behavioral change, I'm so curious from that place of understanding what's at play here and then what's at stake on the other side of it.

To your point, maybe it began in a particular way, but now we're starting to feel the impact of many, many nights. Of experiencing insufficient sleep. Yeah, sure. Right. And now that we're at the effect, but so do you see particular strategies that people can use to help identify some of their own bedtime procrastination habits, to understand the reasons behind them and kind of peel back those layers that interrupt those, that kind of habit loop or automaticity?

Yeah, definitely. I think the biggest thing to recognize is that bedtime procrastination is really, really complicated. Yeah. Different kinds of people have different reasons for doing it, different things they're getting about it, and it has a different impact on their sleep. So I think that is the number one thing to recognize is just that nuance that we mentioned before.

Right? Like everyone's different. It's affecting us in all different ways. You'll know. If this is a problem for you because Yeah, so many people message me about this every single day on Instagram and TikTok and stuff like that. Yeah. And they're asking me about it and you know, they recognize that this is a problem for them.

Yeah. So I think in a lot of difference, sleep problems, there's kind of. Two pathways that you can take, and you can definitely try to do these at the same time. But I think maybe just focus on one and then try the other. Yeah. And one is more of a emotional, like psychological type pathway, and the other is a environmental type one.

Now what I mean by that, if you wanna start with a kind of emotional one, a lot of people's. Speak about procrastinating their time because they're stressed, because they're anxious, because they need me time, like these types of things. So if that is, you think about what can you do, if anything during the day to try to mitigate those things, to try to just create other time for those things.

So I think a lot of us, when we're thinking about sleep issues that we may have, think about the nighttime, yes, but actually. So much that we can do during the day to improve our sleep. Yeah. And the day is like this forgotten time that we can Yeah. Really try to harness to, I improve our sleep and have a good kind of holistic approach to our health.

So what can you do during the day to de-stress or to relieve anxiety? Yes. And I think simple things like is there somewhere that you can walk to instead of driving, like just to get some exercise, like move your body. Be outside kind of thing. Is that good for your stress levels? Is that good for your anxiety levels?

I just try to listen to these like two minute meditations whenever I can. I do a journal on my phone when I'm sitting on the train going places. Like I just really try to optimize any little bits of downtime that I have. Yeah. And in my brain, Recategorize that as me time, love, like I think love that we have this idea that we just need like two hours on the couch every night with our phone and like That's beautiful.

Yeah, I love that. Except can you find like a half an hour during the day where you can have some phone time and you can just have some quiet time so you're not. Sacrificing your bedtime for that. So I think just finding little ways to de-stress or whatever it may be throughout the day so you don't feel the need to do that at night.

Lunch breaks are great for this. Coffee breaks are great for this, when your kids are napping is a great time for it. You know, like all these different times where you can find little pockets of time so you're not just dumping into the one hour when you probably should be going to. Still wise and then the environmental kind of aspect.

I think the environmental aspects are important where people are getting carried away when you are like, oh, I just wanna watch like one more episode of something. I just want like 10 more minutes on my phone, and then maybe two hours goes by. People are familiar with these things. You can use your device based reminders, like your screen time reminders, your bedtime alarms, things like that.

What we have found though in our research is that they're really ineffective, which is just sad. They're ok. Yeah. Yeah, because, um, people just ignore them. People just swipe them away. People just stop the alarm and they just keep doing what they wanna do. Yeah. So I think you just need to be really aggressive about them.

I set my alarm on a. Speaker that's in a different room, so I have to kind of go into that room before it'll hear me. To turn it off, I will put my phone in a drawer in another room, so it's like out of sight. I won't take my phone into my bedroom and I will just put that in the kitchen in a different area.

Like it's hard because I love using my phone, believe me, and I think I am addicted to Instagram, but Oh, totally. You need to be so diligent with it in a really aggress. Way. And so I think designing your environment so you have things that are somewhat interesting to do in your bedroom and we can talk about about that in a second.

Yeah. But the things that you know distract you, the things that you know cause you to get into this bedtime, procrastination spiral. Get them outta your room. Get them in another room. Set as many alarms and different things as possible. If you have a partner, they can be really good for accountability as well.

Yeah. Um, just to try to encourage you to get to bed at a certain time. And the good news is that you should ha theoretically only need to do that for a short period of time until it becomes habit. Yeah. And it's not as difficult for you to make that decision. Sure. Yeah. It's making me think of the call that you made about Jerry Seinfeld.

Sad. Maybe this is sad, I don't know, but my husband and I, we still have these titles for each other where he is, uh, night police, and I'm morning police and cause my aptitude and willpower in the evenings is like, that's my lifetime area of mastery because for me, So if given, if left my own devices, no pun intended, I could go down the rabbit hole happily and keep learning and listening and all this.

Yeah. Whereas in the morning is like my jam. I'm the mm-hmm. Open the windows, get the sunlight in the whole thing. Yeah. And so I'm warning police, whereas he'll be kind of still Dre, you know, doing some of this. To kind of come into life thing. Mm-hmm. Uh, so finding those strengths with your partner, if you have that available to you, uh, I think that's a really important call out and just finding, you know, what are some of our struggles and what are some of each other's strengths and playing with that really.

Yeah, definitely. Great call about the environmental piece, but hopefully to your point over time, once we set up those structures yeah, it does become easier. Yeah. Yeah. Mm-hmm. A hundred percent. Okay. So then with that, are there other things that you would suggest for people? Mm-hmm. Or strategies where they can get clear on are there particular times that they want to start thinking about making this happen?

Just kind of bringing in that crystal clear element so that it's no sort of negotiating in the evening with yourself on when to put things. Like, is there a kind of a step by step process that we can think about this? Yeah, I think that, I mean, sometimes I'm really bad on the strategies because I'm like, well that is different for everyone, so I, I don't wanna give everyone the same advice, but some people will do something called a self contract, which is a popular behavior change technique where you will make those decisions ahead of time when you have more willpower.

I mean, there is this classic theory of self-control and willpower. It's like a muscle and you'll have more of it in the morning, and then the more that you use over the course of the day, it kind of wears out. And then by night you are just done. You don't have an ounce of self-control left because you're like, I've made so many hard decisions all day.

And some researchers think that that actually contributes to time procrastination and us, us pushing back our bedtime because we are just done and we don't have any willpower left to actually. Make those decisions so you can do this thing that's called a self contract, where you will just write down what your plan is like, when are you gonna go to bed?

How much me time are you gonna set for yourself? And just kind of have that in place and you can sign it like a contract and put it on the fridge and it's just there. Love it. You've kind of made that decision for yourself. That is a popular thing to do. Some people, this has been like moderately effective.

There was a trial where people. If then plans to help with bedtime procrastination, which is just a classic, like if I have watched one episode of succession, then I will turn the TV off and walk into the bedroom and you kind of write these plans and you, you know, write them down and you have them on a post-it note somewhere, and that can help shape your behavior.

As well. So there are a few different strategies like that, that you can use. Right. And the thing with all of these is that it is really difficult, I will say on days that you were stressed because Yeah, you know, you've had a lot to deal with, so you feel like you just want more me time. But it can backfire because what you actually need is more sleep when you're really stressed.

So it's really hard to find vicious cycle, the balance between winding down and not getting into this kind of self sabotage loop. But what I was gonna say is it does get easier. Over time when you are forming habits because it just becomes easier to make these decisions. Like the first month or two is the really hard time when you are trying to change your behavior.

So there are those things that I mentioned like the contract, like if then plan. But something that I like to to reiterate to people is that media doesn't always have to. Bad. I feel like this is a theme of the episode. Yeah. You thought this was bad. Let me tell you why. Maybe it's not. I love it. Yes, I agree a hundred percent.

I feel like there's this villainizing when, especially our approach is that technology can be part of our pathway out of our difficulties with sleep in our modern society. I mean, sure. Technology is out of the bag, like it's out of Pandora's box. So how can we leverage and use it to our benefits? So we use a lot of wearables mm-hmm.

And kind of other tactics to bring about awareness. So I think that's brilliant. Yeah. Well it, it is a very complex area in terms of sleep aids. Yeah. Because as I mentioned earlier, most sleep aids are device. Based where you have Yeah. You know, your meditations, your sleep stories, your soundscapes, like you need a phone for all of those things.

Right. I know. And so it can be, it can be really difficult. Um, there is this theory by some media and sleep scholars, which I really like that is, compares passive media to active media. So things that fall into active media are things like, Video games, social media, things that you are kind of interacting with when you're texting people and doing social things, stuff like that.

But then passive media are things like music, meditation, podcasts, soundscapes, like even old fashioned tv, like just watching. And yes, you know, an episode of whatever, something that's a bit slower paste. I really like British tv. Shout out for British tv. Yes, because you can just watch that for five minutes and you'll be asleep.

Honestly, I immediately thought of the British office when you said that. Right. I, I really like British house building shows and design shows, like Grand Designs. Yes. It's incredible. Yeah. Love it. Okay. Theres a lot of great stuff that is just kind of a slower pace in American tv. My point is there are a lot of different types of passive media that have been found to not impact sleep quality.

In a significant way at all. There have been studies that have found that having a TV in the bedroom or watching TV before sleep doesn't really have that much of an impact on your sleep, but something like, like social media really can, so I think just be a bit more aware of what you find relaxing. That is going to be a bit different for everyone.

For me it is like an hour of these British house building shows. It can be, yeah, doing a crossword, which, On my iPad, but it is on the lowest brightness and there are almost no lights on in the house. Yeah. You know, so it's just kind of like doing some puzzles, like just little things like this that are all still device based and technology based, but they're just quite passive and relaxing.

So I think that that's really important because it does give you the time. For me, time, it does help with stress and it kind of gets you into a good schedule of having some time to wind down as. Oh, a hundred percent. In our programs, we have modules on thought timing, and for thought timing. We'll have people kind of audit the impact of the types of thoughts that they're engaging in.

Mm-hmm. By virtue of the types of things that they're consuming. And to your point, some things can be really calming and downregulating Yeah. That you might not think about watching particular shows that are kind of lacking in novelty, just more calming. Mm-hmm. And what have you, and it's counter to that age.

Kind of call out of needing to get rid of all devices and the stark difference that that can be when you're just only have a particular way that you can wind down. And I think you're looking, you're speaking to the nuance, which is so important. Yeah. Okay. So I think one thing that will be really interesting from someone like you is to learn from you and how you are managing.

Your sleep. Mm-hmm. So one of the things that we do is ask every person that comes on here that's clearly thought deeply about their particular area as it relates to sleep. So everyone wants to know, well, what are they doing? We wanna learn from them. First question that we ask everyone is what? I mean, this could not be more perfect for you.

Mm-hmm. What is your nighttime sleep routine? I mean, uh, look it. Normally good. Sometimes it's bad and I just wanna point out you self-compassion. Yeah. Nobody is it, nobody is perfect. Yeah. Remember your self-compassion and yeah. I think sometimes you can think of your sleep routine as, and I know this does go against traditional sleep advice, but what I try to do is really keep a good routine Monday to Friday and then maybe for one day on the weekend, maybe for both.

On the weekend, I'm just like, I've done so much this week. Like I really just need to do whatever it is that maybe I know isn't going to be great for my sleep. But it's just one day of the week and that's fine. And sure, I think a lot of people talk about this with people who are trying to eat. Healthier foods or following.

Yeah. Kind of meal plan is like give yourself a day off every week and, and that is what I try to do with my routine. So my typical routine will include me, as I said, kind of having a longer wind down period. So I'll try to give myself an hour in the evening to. Consume media, like just have a bit of free time, but just to do things that are going to be calming.

So I might watch a chill show. Um, I listen to podcasts a lot. Yeah. And I either, well most of the time either listen to sleep stories or podcast to fall asleep Actually. Great. Okay. Amazing. Mm-hmm. I so appreciate that. Because I think you're, one of the things we see is sometimes a tendency for people to skew into perfectionism.

Yeah. And perfectionist tendencies as it relates to sleep. And there can be this trying to get it rightness, particularly with it, to your point, I loved how you called out that sometimes will mistakenly focus so much on the nights when our sleep isn't working as well as we'd like it to. Mm. And that kind of strangle holds can mean that people are trying to do what they've read in some, you know, top five tips, suggestions, and that has them throwing out everything that is device driven.

And now they've got nothing but their thoughts. Now they're, they have a stress response there. So I love that you're speaking to really being a part of this process and navigating what is working for me and what's not working for me. So yeah, I will add that I don't have too much in my official nighttime routine other than, yeah.

Skincare, getting all of my, um, 1 million things that I keep on my bedside table in place. Yes. And then, and then like doing a crossword or watching a show and listening to a podcast like they're, they're kind of what I do in the, the hour before I go to sleep. I will say I'm doing a lot more during the day actually, and I'm pretty strict about caffeine, so I love.

You, but won't have any in the afternoon. Like once it kind of ticks over to 12, I'm like, all right, I'm done. And I'm often like running from my desk to make a coffee at like 1158. But anyway, it's relatable. You know, I, I'm strict about that and I, in the morning will try to get out to. Side will try to walk and, and just kind of be outdoors, move my body, get some natural sunlight.

And so I'm just kind of thinking of things a lot more holistically in that sense where there are a number of big picture things that I do every day. And then I have like all of my little kind of details at night because let me tell you, I feel like I need a full dining table next to my bed to fit all of the stuff that I just have.

I totally get that. Uh, that is hysterical. Especially that's present for me at this very moment. Cuz my husband just put together new nightstands mm-hmm. That we just got. So we had to like, amazing move out. Right? Mm-hmm. So it's fresh start empty canvas. But now I'm trying to mindfully think like, okay, do I really need the brain tap over here?

Yeah. And the new column and the this and the, the, oh. I hear you. So, and you started to really point to, which is our second question. Mm-hmm. Which is, what is your morning sleep quote unquote routine, which can confuse people. Mm-hmm. Uh, but our point there is the argument that how you start your day and the fresh start of your day, how you're managing that can impact your sleep results.

So did we miss anything in what you mentioned? Cause I love the a light exposure, the movement. Were there other things that we wanna address? I will add, the only other thing that I have is overnight oats every single day because there is actually research that having like a low sugar, high fiber option in the morning keeps you more alert throughout the day, like having some kind of low GI breakfast.

Because I think a lot of people come to sleep media also because they just feel. Tired. So how can you make yourself more alert and stable in a, uh, mood sense throughout the day? And some of that comes from food. So I, yes. Have really, I would say like in the past five years since I, I really got deep into sleep, have yeah.

Overhauled what I'm eating and drinking and I have completely cut out alcohol. Almost because I just had this moment where I just realized it was completely ruining my sleep, and it just wasn't fun anymore at that point. Yep. And I was like, I think I'm just kind of done. And I will drink occasionally with lunch, like once a month on the weekend.

I might have a glass of wine with lunch or something. But yeah, when it gets into the evening, it just, My sleep in so many ways. I realized that yes, I couldn't fall asleep. I was waking up during the night. I would be so tired in the morning. I'd be really anxious and moody the next day and kind of have this like anxiety hangover from drinking.

And I'm not talking about like getting wasted. I mean having like two drinks or something like that. I would still feel this way. So it was just, of course it kind of got to this point where, I decided to break up. I love that a hundred percent. One of the things that I do think is really powerful. Do you use wearables at all or not so much?

I do. I don't always wear it to sleep because sometimes I don't actually like knowing what my sleep was like understand, and that's all. Trying to fight back against the perfectionism where I'm just like, you know what, if it was seven hours, it's fine. I don't need to know, so don't need to know. I understand that.

Yeah. Well, the only reason I bring that up is one thing that I, I've seen wearables really shine in for a lot of people is just the objective, awareness of the impact, particularly of alcohol. Yeah. As one of the things that we'll see for so many people. Mm-hmm. And just this shock and how much it will raise our heart rate.

Mm-hmm. Lower H r B, you know, raised respiratory rate, raised body temperature, you know, the whole world. Sleep fragmentation. Mm-hmm. All of it. And so I love that you're pointing to that and cuz it really does take something to see that and then make that new choice and but to still have the flexibility to, I like what you said, maybe with lunch.

Yeah. We talk about boozy brunches, maybe a happy hour or what have you, but moving that much earlier than we might have imagined to support our sleep. I have this theory that anything. That is fun, is bad for sleep. When you think about it, anything that is traditionally fun because on the on this sleep journey, I'm now so aware of everything where I'm just like, oh, I don't really wanna drink.

I dunno if I can have a coffee in the afternoon. I'm out with. My friends and you know, it hits 11:00 PM and I'm like, oh, gotta go. And yeah, I know it's gotta come home to keep on my sleep schedule. And yeah, it is just kind of funny where I think that good sleep is really a hallmark of a healthy lifestyle.

Yes. Uh, it just seems that everything that is fun is bad. Yes, I completely hear that. Uh, we had a sleep anthropologist on the podcast who spoke to this concept of sleep capital versus social capital. Mm-hmm. That I always think to mm-hmm. In the kinda instances that you're speaking on and the argument that as social creatures, while we wanna invest in sleep capital most of the time, that every so often investing in our social capital has an argument for improving our sleep.

Yeah. Because, Short term, it's impacting us negatively. On the long term, you can arguably feel more connected to your tribe and what have you. Mm-hmm. So I often will rationalize or justify if I do make certain choices. I love that. Right. Invest in that. Yeah. That's a really cool capital. Mm-hmm. Yeah. But I hear what you're saying.

A hundred percent. That's one of the things we find too, is that's versus additive in nature. So many people wanna know, uh, what's the supplement, what's the gadget? What's the this? And half the time it's subtractive in nature or the management of our sleep and bed. Yeah, definitely. I mean, this. How I kind of came around to this area myself because so much about sleep is behavioral and psychological.

Yes. And we're constantly marketed to that. Buying things will fix our problems in general, but now that also includes our sleep problems because the sleep industry is so massive and products can help, but. Most of the time in small and incremental ways, like no one's life is gonna be overhauled by a weighted blanket or a silk case.

Thank. And as you said, like in some ways less is more like less alcohol, less caffeine, less artificial light, less anxiety, less stress, right? Yes. So I preach, I'm really trying to be minimalist in a lot of different areas, but this is. Yeah. So well said. Okay, so speaking of minimalism, the third question is, what's on your nightstand or proverbial nightstand when you're traveling?

Mm-hmm. Ambience. Mm-hmm. S gadgets. Well, that's the opposite of minimalism. That's, I know, touched on. I think what's happened to me is that I get sent a lot of, Things for free, like a lot of sleep products. And then I start using them and then I like certain things and then I just feel the need to, I don't know, kind of be like a squirrel or something and just kind of like haul them all into my little nest next to my bed.

So I. Love it. Yeah. So because I listen to a lot of things before I sleep, I have this headband, like this soft headband that has Bluetooth speakers is in in it. Yeah. So I wear that to sleep, even though I have blackout blinds in my bedroom, I have this habit of wearing an eye mask. Yes. Because I just like the pressure on my face.

Mm-hmm. And it just helps me feel cozy and, and fall asleep. And. Even when I, when I travel, I mean, hotels are terrible for curtains and light. Yes. But even in my bedroom, I'd rent and we can only do so much with the blinds and there's always bits of light coming in, and it wakes me up quite early in the morning.

So I'm wearing a sleep mask. I always lose it. So I have a spare sleep mask on my bedside table as well. Amazing. Yeah. Lately I, I've gotten into using a, a heat bag, like a wheat bag on my neck before I go to sleep, and so I've got that on my bedside table. I have. An iPad, which I recommend to everyone. I have an old iPad that has nothing, nothing on it other than love it.

Have a few apps. I have a crossword app, I have Calm, I have podcasts, and I have maybe one or two other things. So they're basically all of the things. If I was to wake up in the middle of the night, I could put on a sleep story, I could put on. A meditation, like whatever it may be. So I just have this like disconnected but connected device there.

Yes. And now you can see why I need so much space on my bedside table. We could, and then I've got like water. I've got tea. I mean it's really a busy place. I love that. I think that can be very relatable. Cause sometimes we'll have people. With very monk-like answers and mm-hmm. Oh, well just have a glass of water and a, you know, bible yet.

I think that this can be really helpful, especially the iPad tip. Cuz actually I don't think that's been touched on enough. That's one of the things that I've done as well and it makes such a difference. I love reading Kindle on it and put the red light. I have a Kindle over on my, uh, on my bedside table as well.

Sometimes I like to read. Oh, fantastic. Read in bed. Yeah. Sure. And I have a sunrise alarm clock. Um, so it takes up a lot of space, so as you can sit and a lamp. So as you can see, we're really short on space. On my bedside table, when I, when I travel, I just use my phone to play white noise and yeah, I take my sleep mask and my headphone thing, so that's like very minimalist for when I'm away from home.

Sure. That's great. Amazing. And then the last question would be out of this entire time, especially for someone like you mm-hmm. That's thought deeply in this area, has really devoted your life to this in a particular way. What would you say has made the biggest change to the management of your sleep? Or said another way?

Biggest aha moment in how you relate to your. Yeah. The biggest aha moment for me was managing what I'm eating and drinking, actually. Mm-hmm. It was really focusing on alcohol and how bad alcohol had been. Yeah. For my sleep and uh, By proxy, my mood and anxiety and just the, the rest of my waking life, thinking about how caffeine was affecting my sleep as well.

So for me it was kind of taking a big picture, look at what I was eating and drinking in addition to more of the psychological and behavioral stuff and things in my environment. But I would, yeah, definitely encourage people if they're having sleep problems. Like I'm always a, an advocate. Thinking of psychology and behavior first.

I mean, is it anxiety? Yes. Is it stress? But then looking to what you are eating and drinking. Sure. Oh, a hundred percent. I find time and time again that that's a really impactful change that people will make. Certainly. Of course, we discussed the alcohol just to hands down one of the lowest hanging fruits that we could Yeah.

Play with to make a real difference with sleep. But the meal type and timing, oh my gosh. Mm-hmm. Such a difference for people, and particularly as we play. Things and stabilize glucose and we're not having those big crashes in the middle of the night. Yeah. And minimizing wake-ups and, but also lowering heart rate and improving H R V just by playing with the last bite of food.

Mm-hmm. The timeline by which you're having that. I mean, it's just game changing. So love that you speak to that and live by that. That's fantastic. And bring yourself kind of that empathy and self-compassion when we're traveling and the meals are not as great and whatever. So love all that. Now, I'm clear that as people have been listening to this conversation and just all of your knowledge, they want to know how can they stay in touch with you?

How can they follow you? How can they stay abreast of the latest papers and all that you've got going on? What would be the best way to do that? Yeah, of course. The best way would probably be on, on Instagram. My handle is Nessie Hill. I do have my YouTube channel, which is called Brain Craft, and I'm on TikTok as Brain Craft as.

Amazing. Well, everyone listening, you must follow this woman. She's doing incredible things and just making it fun along the way and bringing us along the way to your, through your life. Yeah. And displaying what's working, what's not working for you. It's just so, so important, especially at a time. Like this, when so many people are wrapped with stress and anxiety and a sense of that something's not working.

Mm-hmm. With their sleep, the management of their behaviors and to have some of these ways to play with it an experiment is fantastic. So really appreciate you taking the time. It means a lot. Yeah. Thank you for having me on. This was super fun. Fantastic. Thank you. You've been listening to The Sleep Is A Skill Podcast, the number one podcast for people who wanna take their sleep skills to the next level.

Every Monday, I send out something that I call Molly's Monday Obsessions containing everything that I'm obsessing over in the world of sleep. Head on over to sleep as a skill.com to sign up.


Complete a short assessment to test the quality of your sleep

Free & Customized Actionable Strategies for Changing How You Sleep
Start the assessment