Revenge Bedtime Procrastination: What Is It and How Do You Stop?
8 min read
Last Modified 8 December 2022 First Added 10 December 2021
After a long day, you might feel as though you need more hours in the day to do the things you want to and end up putting off sleeping to get more time to yourself. If you do this, you’ve participated in sleep procrastination.
However, revenge bedtime procrastination may be harming your health – let’s learn about what it is, the psychology behind why we do this, and how it impacts us. If you, like myself, regret staying up late when I have to get up in the morning, you can also learn about how to stop self-sabotaging your sleep.
Sleep procrastination is the psychological phenomenon in which people stay up later at night in order to control their time and make up for any missed time. Essentially trying to reclaim ‘me time’ and control their day, such as watching another episode of that TV series despite being very tired.
Although this phenomenon is nothing new to research, the term ‘bedtime procrastination’ first came up in a study paper published in Frontiers in Psychology in 2014 by behavioural scientist Dr. Floor Kroese and her collaborator from Utrecht University in the Netherlands. Dr. Kroese described bedtime procrastination as choosing to delay going to bed without any practical reason.
The ‘revenge’ part of bedtime procrastination was first coined in China in the late 2010s relating to the ‘996 schedule’ of working 12 hours, 6 days a week that some of the workers face. The workers intentionally stayed up later during evening hours to take control of their free time.
However, it wasn’t until 2020 and the COVID-19 pandemic that this term started to go viral on Twitter. Journalist Daphne K. Lee tweeted saying this about revenge bedtime procrastination:
A phenomenon in which people who don’t have much control over their daytime life refuse to sleep early in order to regain some sense of freedom during late-night hours.
Revenge sleep procrastination is more than just staying up, or staying awake due to insomnia or other sleep disorders. According to the Sleep Foundation, there are three signs that you’re bedtime procrastinating. These include:
Sleep procrastination can vary and look different depending on each person and what they do during the daytime. The medical director for the Loma Linda University Sleep Disorder Center, Ramiz Fargo, MD adds that the activities involved in revenge bedtime procrastination are often easy and things you enjoy doing. The overall activity doesn’t matter, all that matters is that the end result is delayed sleep.
There’s no one reason why this self-sabotage of sleep happens. But there are a few theories to what may cause revenge bedtime procrastination.
It could be that you’re just a natural night owl, meaning that your body clock is more active and awake at night. At its root though, revenge bedtime procrastination stems from a lack of free time during the day. Between daily tasks such as work, school, and errands, people aren’t left with much time during the day to do things they enjoy or want to do, or just enjoy time relaxing and destressing.
People who engage in sleep procrastination do want to sleep, despite their actions. Hence the term ‘revenge’, you want to take back what you feel like you lost out of despite you being extremely tired, this is called the intention-behaviour gap.
There’s also a possible link between general procrastination and bedtime procrastination as well. If you procrastinate generally in everyday life, you’re more likely to procrastinate sleeping as well. And on the other hand, sleep procrastination can cause general procrastination, creating an endless cycle.
Revenge sleep deprivation has become more common over the past couple of years, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, lockdowns, and the work from home environments. Studies show that the pandemic has interfered with our sleep habits by increasing the feeling of being out of control of the time we spend. More people are staying up later due to sheer boredom. Working from home has blurred the boundary between work and home lives. And even going back into the office has taken some getting used to as more people are trying to take back their freedom.
Anyone can be affected and engage in procrastination over going to sleep. Experts aren’t certain who is impacted the most as research is still in the early stages.
However, a 2019 study in Poland shows that women are more likely to engage in sleep procrastination. This can be because of the societal construct of household chores and childcare responsibilities being left to the woman. While this is not always the case, it highlights that some men can come home after work and relax, but sometimes a woman’s working day doesn’t end, hence why women may need more sleep.
Another reason why women might be twice as likely to procrastinate sleep is that they’re more likely than men to report feelings of significant stress. This physical and emotional stress might be a reason for procrastinating sleep for relaxation time and self-care.
Other people who may be directly impacted by revenge sleep procrastinating are night owls and those who generally procrastinate as mentioned before. Students and younger Millennials and Generation Z are also more likely to engage in bedtime procrastination. This can be due to many things, such as the rise of social media, stress, or in a way, “a rebellion against the organizational cultures they are trying to navigate”.
Because procrastinating sleeping at night has a direct impact on how much overall sleep you are getting, it’s no surprise that this act is sabotaging your mental and physical health. Those who engage with bedtime procrastination know what they’re doing, they know that although they’re tired and will regret it the next day, they do it anyway. But what exactly is it doing to us?
By self-sabotaging your sleep schedules, you are putting yourself at risk for sleep deprivation. You need between 7-9 hours of sleep at night, and falling under this can take a toll. From a lack of deep sleep you might have symptoms like:
It can be difficult to get out of the mindset of trying to regain your freedom and control over your life since even when someone knows the consequences, they put off sleeping anyway. This leads to this cycle of exhaustion, lack of productivity, and sleep procrastination all over again. But there are ways to stop this act of self-sabotage, ultimately though, you need to make the choice to not watch that next episode and hit the hay.
If sleep procrastination is from work, or with the pandemics style of working from home, it is best to set boundaries around working patterns to separate work and home life. Take breaks and disconnect from tasks when the workday is over. Try to work in a separate room or have a dedicated ‘work’ area just so you can leave work behind, working in bed might be comfy but it can affect your sleep at night.
Once you have these down, you need to be consistent, wake up and go to sleep at the same times because it will make things easier as you fall into a routine.
For those who procrastinate sleep because of worries over not having enough time in the day, the best option is to find a healthy way to create space for yourself and compromise to find harmony between work and leisure. But at least you know you’re not alone in your worries.