The revenge bedtime procrastination

Revenge bedtime procrastination may sound a little dramatic, but it’s a phrase that’s being thrown around more and more often despite the fact that so many of us are exhausted and really value our sleep pandemic or not, but despite all these factors, when we’re in bed – do we really try our best to get to sleep, or do we use that time for other things? According to the Sleep Foundation “’Revenge bedtime procrastination’ describes the decision to sacrifice sleep for leisure time that is driven by a daily schedule lacking in free time.”  Sleep is a crucial part of our survival, without it, or with minimal amounts – we significantly impact our brain’s ability to function. In fact the effects of sleep deprivation kick in a lot quicker than we would like to think.

So what is it about bedtime that inspires sleep procrastination? It seems almost counterintuitive that we go through the motions, do our sleep routine and then deprive the body of exactly that. The idea is that, for some, we are so busy working or studying during the day – that we are desperate to squeeze in a little ‘leisure’ time and the only time to squeeze that in is at night after dinner and just before bedtime. We put off our bedtimes in order to ‘give’ ourselves a little bit of extra time in the day. Unfortunately however this comes at a cost, later nights and early mornings have a very effective way of throwing off our circadian cycles. Whether we are staying up to watch an extra episode of Love Island, another twenty Tik Tok videos, or read just ‘one more’ chapter of a book, the result is the same. This has implications for our mental and physical health and can have both short and long-term effects depending on how often we procrastinate ‘catching Z’s’.

It is important to distinguish the odd late night, or being a night owl with actual bedtime procrastination though. In order for this behaviour to be classified as ‘bedtime procrastination’ it needs to include the following: “an understanding that there are consequences to delaying sleep, the absence of a valid reason for staying up later than intended, such as an external event or an underlying illness or a delay in going to sleep that reduces one’s total sleep time.” Bedtime procrastination comes in two forms – one involves avoiding sleep while in bed (while-in-bed procrastination) while the other involves avoiding the bed altogether. Now, for the revenge side of things. It’s called revenge bedtime procrastination due to the intentional decision making process that we employ when actively avoiding going to sleep – whether this is anxiety or stress induced, or in order to buy you an extra hour or two more in the day. The idea, as you might have figured out, is to get “revenge” on the daytime hours – a notion largely popularised by social media through the course of the pandemic.

While the studies around revenge bedtime procrastination are in their early stages, it’s hard to determine who is most affected by it. Some experts hypothesise that it’s mainly women who are affected by it. That being said, the pandemic has exacerbated this across all demographic and country lines, and much like the pandemic, prevention is the best medicine. In order to remain part of the lucky few who don’t participate in bedtime procrastination it is important to maintain a sleep schedule, especially during the week. Outside of this there are other practices that can be put into place such as avoiding excessive screen time before bed as well as stimulants such as alcohol and caffeine that will also help.