Be Kind to Your Sleep: Why Self-Compassion Matters

woman sitting by window with tea

If you’ve ever let yourself read just one more chapter or watch one more episode (which probably, inevitably, turned into two, or three…) then you know the regretful, over-tired feeling that comes the next day after staying up too late. 

When you’re moseying around half-awake, you can at least take comfort in the fact that this is an extremely common behavior among adults. In fact, it even has a name: bedtime procrastination. Defined as failing to go to bed at the intended time, bedtime procrastination is actually a very important factor related to getting insufficient sleep and affecting individual well-being as a consequence.

If you don’t have any external factors preventing you from falling asleep at your projected bedtime, there is really no rhyme or reason why you shouldn’t be getting a full night of rest. 

While it’s normal every once in a while to keep yourself awake by binge-watching your favorite show or scrolling through social media, we could all use a little reminder to be kind to our sleep. Since today is World Kindness Day, we wanted to shed light on the power of compassion and kindness when it comes to positive sleep hygiene.


In a study published by the Mindfulness journal in 2019, researchers put self-compassion to the test. Could adults get better sleep and show less reliance on sleep-delaying activities as a way of coping with stress if they showed more self-compassion?

The answer is yes! Participants in the study that scored higher on a measure of self-compassion reported less frequent bedtime procrastination. Furthermore, they also reported better sleep quality overall and much less trouble falling asleep at night. 

During the study, the researchers discovered that participants who showed self-compassion procrastinate less on sleep in part because they were more inclined to reframe negative events and feelings of stress. 

This ability to cope with negative emotions could make it easier to get to bed on time, though the researchers also noted that there may be other reasons why self-compassionate people fall asleep easier. For example, people who are kind to themselves are probably more focused on taking good care of themselves from a physical standpoint, while those who tend to be more critical of themselves may be more likely to push their limits in ways that are less conducive to sleep.

Whether or not you consider yourself to be a self-compassionate person, it is possible to improve your self-kindness through practice, which may in turn improve your sleep.


If you regularly struggle with bedtime procrastination, here are several ideas for using self-compassion to get a better night’s rest and fall asleep earlier.

Make time for five minutes of meditation in bed

We’ve all heard about the advantages of meditation, especially when you’re trying to relax or wind down at night. But what about self-compassion meditation? In one study, participants who practiced self-compassion meditation reported greater life satisfaction and lower anxiety and stress. This type of meditation generally involves three steps: acknowledging suffering with mindfulness, recognizing that suffering is part of being human, and expressing self-awareness or self-kindness. Repeating statements such as “May I be strong,” or “May I be kinder to myself,” can resonate deeply and be incredibly self-affirming, leading to better, more peaceful sleep.

Show kindness to your “morning self”

Staying up late might feel like a good idea to your evening self, but it can lead to grouchiness and pain for your morning self. Before you stay up past two a.m. finishing a movie, show a little self-compassion for your morning self and shift your focus to sleep. Research shows that we almost always fail to empathize with our future selves. Taking a kinder approach to your sleep and the person you’ll be in the morning will lead to better balance between your present and future self. This way, you’ll be able to meet your present needs in a way that won’t impact your ability to get a full night of sleep.

Be more intentional with your downtime

After a long day of work, it’s normal (and perfectly okay!) to want to do something relaxing and enjoyable that helps you unwind at night. Too often, we don’t give ourselves this much-needed break throughout the day, which may cause us to stay up late in pursuit of it. Unwinding in the evening is an important part of self-care, so long as it’s done in moderation. Being more intentional with your downtime means putting a time limit on it and sticking to it. For example, indulging in an hour of internet surfing and an hour of TV will be plenty pleasurable–rather than over-indulging and ending up feeling exhausted the next day.