You know that feeling after a long day when you’re so exhausted, but decide to lay in bed and scroll through social media for just a few minutes? Next thing you know, an hour has passed and it’s now way later than you hoped, but you continue to scroll, despite knowing how tired you’ll be the next day? Well, same! This phenomenon has a name: revenge bedtime procrastination.
The name sounds intense, but revenge bedtime procrastination is simply a word used to describe the endless cycle of staying up late and feeling super tired, only to do it over and over again in order to regain control over your time and schedule. Sound familiar?
If you’re stuck in this vicious cycle and constantly feel like you’re running on low power mode, there’s good news. Sleep procrastination is preventable and avoidable. Plus, there are better sleeping methods out there. Here’s exactly what revenge bedtime procrastination entails, why we do it, and how to nix the behavior once and for all.
What Is Revenge Bedtime Procrastination?
Revenge bedtime procrastination is when people put off going to bed to engage in activities they don’t have time for during the day, says Reena B. Patel, a parenting expert, positive psychologist, and licensed educational board certified behavior analyst. “It’s a way to get in what you really want to do since you couldn’t throughout the day,” she explains. For example, catching up on your favorite show, playing video games, or online shopping.
In other words, sleep procrastination is an intentional decision to delay and/or sacrifice sleep for leisurely activities or entertainment, Patel adds.
What Causes Sleep Procrastination?
More often than not, sleep procrastination is driven by a lack of free time in your schedule. “We want to feel in control of our life and actions, and if we do not have that sense of control in what we choose to do, we hold sleep off in order to fit in watching tv, talking to friends, or reading a book, even though we should be sleeping,” Patel explains.
Another way to look at it? You’re seeking “revenge” on the daytime hours where you had little time yourself. Essentially, your decision to sacrifice sleep (and therefore, your health) is an opportunity to take back that time. Revenge bedtime procrastination may also be a sign that you’re experiencing a sense of burnout in your personal or professional life.
For parents of young children, those hours after putting the kids to bed might be the only time you have alone, Patel says. If you have a hectic work schedule or a job that feels thankless and overwhelming, lounging on the couch and binge-watching TV shows might be the only time to experience unstructured relaxation.
How to Avoid Sleep Procrastination
It’s easier said than done, but the first step is recognizing a pattern or habit of sleep procrastination. You’ll of course notice your actual sleep time declines, but you may also experience mood changes, fatigue, brain fog, and feelings of resentment, Patel says.
Once you identify the issue and acknowledge your need to sleep and recharge, Patel suggests implementing bedtime rules and a schedule. “Create your rules to feel in control, but account for at least eight hours of sleep a night,” she explains. “This may mean asking others in your family for help with kids’ nighttime routines or having a clear beginning and ending for your leisure night time activities.” You might also want to set stronger boundaries at work, letting your boss or colleagues know that you’ll be logging off at a set time every day or once a week (if you need more flexibility). This way you can set aside to something that serves you — whether it’s watching a movie, getting your nails done, or doing absolutely nothing.
Another pro tip is to set a reminder or timer for when it’s time to stop any activities (Netflix, social media, reading, etc.) and get ready for bed, Patel says. And be honest with yourself when setting these guidelines. Will you actually only watch Netflix for 15 minutes? Likely not, because those 15 minutes quickly turns into an hour, she adds.
It may also be helpful to literally schedule rest and sleep into your calendar as a friendly reminder to stay on track, Patel explains. Start small and create realistic bedtime schedules to ease your way into a constant routine.
If you’re still struggling to hit the hay at a reasonable hour (the CDC suggests at least seven to nine hours per night), Patel recommends talking to an expert such as a physician or therapist. They’ll be able to teach you new relaxation strategies, identify specific sources of stress, and develop management or coping tools.
— Additional reporting by Sydni Ellis