What Is Revenge Bedtime Procrastination?
How many times have you found yourself staying up late, scrolling on your phone? Or glued to Netflix letting episode after episode of your favorite series automatically play, despite being super tired? There’s a little voice telling you that it’s getting late, and you need to get to bed. But you don’t. If this sounds familiar, then you are not alone.
The term ‘Revenge Bedtime Procrastination’ is a newer concept to describe the behavior of someone who intentionally stays up late to take part in leisurely activities, to feel like they are claiming some downtime back from their busy day. Individuals who do this know that they should be going to bed and getting some crucial restorative sleep before starting yet another busy day. They know there will be negative consequences such as feeling run down, unable to concentrate, tired, and in some cases struggling to function properly. But they put off going to bed anyway.
The ‘revenge’ element comes from the idea that if you have long working days and are switched on for long periods of time and you may feel like you are owed some time back. It’s resentment toward having to give so much time to working, chores and important day to day tasks. There is a strong sense of your time not being your own, and being controlled by your employer, family responsibilities or school schedules.
It is a completely relatable concept for many of us. Today’s societal pressures and fast-paced lifestyles are making it increasingly difficult to carve out that precious ‘me time’ during daytime hours. Is it any wonder that, across the globe, people feel that putting off sleep at night is the only way to strike some type of work/life balance?
Revenge bedtime procrastination has a firm link to our overall stress-sleep cycle. If you have had a busy, demanding day with little time to yourself, you may be more inclined to purposefully delay sleep, to grasp some down-time. If someone experiences stress in the day, their body may increase more of the stress hormone cortisol, which blocks the sleep hormone melatonin. This can happen when your body feels ready to fall asleep and can also cause poor quality sleep.1
Consequently, you may become more stressed about how tired you will feel the following day, as you consciously decide to sacrifice quality sleep in favor of clawing back precious time. When the next day begins and you find yourself tired from the late night, this can cause anxiousness as you struggle through your day with a groggy head and the feeling of walking through thick, squishy mud.
When people’s day-to-day lives are too busy to allow them time to disconnect from work and responsibilities, they either struggle to slow their thoughts and fall asleep, or they sleep poorly. Equally, revenge bedtime procrastination is finding the freedom and headspace to switch off from your day which is a good way to prepare for sleep, but ironically, you are sacrificing sleep to do this. On the one hand, you are finding time to yourself and saving yourself from a relentless Groundhog Day movie-like routine. However, this is coming at the detriment of your sleep, and therefore your overall health.
What are the signs of sleep procrastination?
According to The Sleep Foundation, the following three behaviors are key signs of sleep procrastination2:
- An intentional delay in going to sleep that reduces your total sleep time
- No valid reason for staying up later than intended, such as an external event or an underlying illness
- Being aware that delaying bedtime could lead to negative consequences
How to fix Revenge Bedtime Procrastination
If you find yourself stuck in this cycle of intentional sleep avoidance followed by the effects of limited sleep, don’t panic. We’ve pulled together some tips on how you can escape:
1. Get into good sleep habits
- Prioritize sleep. Once committed to escaping the cycle, stick to your guns. This might include saying “no” to an after-dinner FaceTime with your best friend on a weeknight or limiting yourself to one episode of that gripping Netflix show. Once you’ve practiced prioritizing sleep, it’s a habit that will get easier. Perhaps you could keep a sleep journal and record how quickly you fell asleep, how you slept during the night and how you felt the next day. Over time, it may act as a great motivator to keep putting sleep first, as you see the benefits start to emerge. By taking charge of your sleep, you are controlling your health and emotional wellbeing.
- Setting a sleep schedule. By going to bed at the same time each night and waking at the same time in the mornings (weekends included), you can help your body clock establish a routine and ensure you are getting enough hours of sleep every night. National Sleep Foundation guidelines advise that healthy adults need between 7 and 9 hours of sleep per night.3 By recovering sufficient hours of restorative sleep, you should find yourself feeling brighter and energized during the day.
- Other examples of good sleep habits include avoiding caffeine in the afternoon and evening, turning off electronic blue light devices 30-60 minutes before bedtime and reserving your bedroom for sleep, ensuring it is free from clutter.
2. Evaluate your bedtime routine
Get excited about your bedtime routine. Wind down time is important. It’s a crucial form of self-care and an effective way to claim back time lost in the daytime. A well-established bedtime routine can work wonders in providing you with that crucial ‘me time’ that we all crave during our busy days. Tailor your bedtime routine to your needs, your interests and enjoy setting yourself up for a restful night’s sleep while switching off from the day.
Here are some examples:
- 30-60 minutes before you intend to go to bed, listen to some calming music, relax in a warm bubble bath, slowly wash your face, and enjoy any skin care products you may have.
- Read a book and allow your mind to be whisked away from reality for a while.
- Write in a journal to organize and calm your thoughts from the day.
- Try some deep breathing exercises, yoga, or coloring books for adults.
Whatever you choose, your bedtime routine is yours and provided it consists of slow, relaxing activities you will be using this down-time to prepare you for sleep, instead of disrupting it.
A specific revenge bedtime procrastination fix has been proposed by sleep specialist Michael Breus, PhD, with his Power-Down Hour. Dr. Breus says this approach aims to “slow your mind down while getting you to step away from technology and address daily procrastination (that could lead to sleep procrastination).”4
The Power-Down Hour is made up of three 20-minute stages:
- The first 20 minutes are dedicated to things that need to be done.
- The second 20 minutes are set aside for hygiene (such as a hot bath).
- The final 20 minutes are for relaxation (such as meditation, prayer, or journaling).”5
3. Make time for you
Whether you are a revenge bedtime procrastinator or not, the importance of making time for yourself each day is key to overall wellbeing. This may seem impossible in your hectic life, and the idea of ‘me time’ certainly takes a back seat in most people’s priorities. However, society seems to slowly be waking up to the fact that self-care is not an indulgence or selfish; it is indeed a necessity.
Here are just some benefits of self-care:
- Even just a couple of minutes pausing from work or childcare can help you put things into perspective and reduce feelings of being overwhelmed. Take your lunch break and go for a walk or turn the television on for 10 minutes so your little ones can stay in one place while you enjoy a glass of tea or even sit still with your eyes closed.
- When we relax, it gives our body a chance to rest and our mind time to process things from the day. We are then better prepared to cope with any challenges that come our way or wind down properly ahead of going to sleep.
- If you are a caregiver — whether for young children or aging parents — taking care of yourself is an extension of taking care of them. Sometimes it’s hard to find time to even sit down! On top of caring for basic needs such as eating and sleeping, we often are helping kids to manage their emotions throughout the day as they navigate the world around them. When we ourselves are struggling to keep on top of our own feelings due to stress or tiredness, this can really feel like an uphill battle. When you give yourself time for a break (whether 10 minutes or a couple of hours), it frees up space in your mind to tackle the everyday challenges that come with young children. You don’t feel as ‘burnt-out’ and your mood may improve, as well as your patience, ability to concentrate and make decisions. In short, you are ensuring you give the best of yourself to your kids and your loved ones.
Actively taking control of your to-do list or schedule and putting yourself at the top may reduce how much time you take from the hours of sleep you need and reduce the likelihood of you resorting to revenge bedtime procrastination. Self-care in the day doesn’t have to last hours, be expensive or take much planning. Whatever form it takes for you, protect it and enjoy it.