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Revenge Bedtime Procrastination: What It Is and How to Stop It

April 20th, 2022


Imagine this: you wake up at 7 am for your day and are feeling exceedingly tired. Unfortunately, you have hit your snooze button too many times already and you have to rise from your slumber. For most of the day, you find yourself feeling lethargic in meetings and conversations. You yearn for an opportunity to take a nap, but that time does not come as the day is booked.

And while you are tired, you find it hard to feel bad for yourself because you were laying in bed scrolling through Tik Tok until 1 am. You wanted to see what was happening on social media because you had no time to keep up with it throughout the day. It is ok though, tonight you will go to bed early and reset your bedtime routine. However, when the night comes, you find yourself delaying sleep by reading your new novel and accepting that your sleep deprivation continues.

If this sounds like something that you experience often, you are not alone. Most of us engage in this behavior at some point in our lives. I, for one, found myself in this pattern just last night while trying to complete the New York Times crossword puzzle and am now experiencing the aforementioned fatigue as I write this piece. This experience has been largely defined as revenge bedtime procrastination.

What is Revenge Bedtime Procrastination?

What is Revenge Bedtime Procrastination?

The phrase “revenge bedtime procrastination” was made culturally popular after journalist Daphne K. Lee had a tweet go viral describing this phenomenon. On June 7, 2020, Lee tweeted:

“Learned a very relatable term today: “報復性熬夜” (revenge bedtime procrastination), a phenomenon in which people who don’t have much control over their daytime life refuse to sleep early to regain some sense of freedom during late night hours.”

This means that when we feel that we are unable to engage in leisure time throughout the day, we take “revenge” on our bedtime to engage in activities that we find pleasurable. These activities can range from watching television, reading books, scrolling through social media, etc., but results in significant sleep deprivation.

When describing revenge bedtime procrastination, it is important to note that there are a few key factors that separate this behavior from other patterns of behavior:

  • Overall sleep time must be decreased by engaging in procrastination behavior.
  • Sleep time delays cannot be attributed to other causes like insomnia or being in a loud environment.
  • The person engaged in the procrastination is aware that they are losing sleep but engages in their leisure behavior anyway.
Common Causes of Revenge Bedtime Procrastination

Common Causes of Revenge Bedtime Procrastination

The short answer to this question is that those of us who feel like we do not have time to engage in leisure activities throughout the day are more likely to engage in revenge bedtime procrastination. However, other elements are believed to contribute to revenge bedtime procrastination aside from feeling overly busy.

Researchers report that people who engage in this pattern of behavior are more likely to experience difficulty with self-regulation. Though they want to sleep, they choose to stay awake. This disconnect in thinking and behavior is referred to as the “intention-behavior gap.”

Additionally, research suggests that those who struggle with procrastination in daily life are more likely to experience revenge bedtime procrastination. This means that if you experience challenges with self-regulation and procrastination, you are at higher risk of experiencing revenge bedtime procrastination.

What are the Impacts of Revenge Bedtime Procrastination?

What are the Impacts of Revenge Bedtime Procrastination?

Though in the short term sleep procrastination brings the benefit of being able to engage in leisure activities that do not feel accessible throughout the day, it can come with some serious consequences.

Some common impacts of sleep deprivation from revenge bedtime procrastination include:

  • Negative cognitive effects: Sleep deprivation leads to the degradation of memory, thought processes, and the ability to make decisions. This can be dangerous if you are in a role that requires quick problem solving such as being a teacher or emergency room provider.
  • Negative physical health effects: Sleep deprivation in the short term can lead to cardiovascular and metabolic challenges. If sleep deprivation occurs over an extended period of time, it can lead to increased rates of heart disease and diabetes.
  • Reduced vaccine efficacy: While many of us may not have reflected on vaccine efficacy and health before, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important to note that sleep deprivation can lead to vaccinations being less effective.
  • Poor self-regulation: Revenge bedtime procrastination, as stated above, is often caused by challenges with self-regulation. Unfortunately, sleep deprivation leads to increased challenges with self-regulation meaning that a vicious cycle of increased procrastination and sleep deprivation can occur.

Four Tips to Change This Habit

Though I love to finish the New York Times crossword puzzle before bed, I know that if I do not get enough sleep, I am due for some challenges. Listed here are a few practices to implement if you find that you need support in no longer engaging in revenge bedtime procrastination:

  1. Improve your sleep hygiene. Some key components of sleep hygiene include maintaining consistent sleep and wake time, turning off electronic devices an hour before bed, avoiding excess sugar and alcohol in the hours before bed, and creating a positive environment for sleep.
  2. Create time in your daily routine to enjoy leisure activities. This may mean taking an extended lunch break to read or starting your day later to provide time to connect with loved ones. Block this time off in your calendar and honor it the same way you honor other commitments.
  3. Assess the necessity of your daily routines. Often we jam-pack our schedules from morning to night. While many of our commitments are necessary and life-giving, some are likely not. Replace parts of your routine that are no longer serving you with leisure activities that feel life-giving.
  4. Reframe your thoughts on sleep. When we are busy, we may feel that sleep is a chore that we have to accomplish. To support improved sleep, we can reframe our thoughts on sleep to reflect that prioritizing sleep is an act of self-care.

Revenge bedtime procrastination may feel good at the moment, but over time it can lead to lasting consequences. Recognize your own behaviors and make positive changes where you can.

Written By: Sarah Kelly, LSW, CADC

Clarity Clinic

At Clarity Clinic, we have highly trained staff who specialize in therapy and psychiatry services. To learn more about how we can support your mental health, call Clarity Clinic at (312) 815-9660 or schedule an appointment today.

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