Revenge Bedtime Procrastination: What it is and What You Can Do About It

Tara Youngblood Nov 15, 2022

Bedtime Revenge Procrastination

Revenge is probably the last thing that comes to mind when you think of sleep.

But revenge bedtime procrastination exists, and you commit this act of sleep vengeance when you feel you deserve to stay up late after missing out on quality leisure time.

The over-40-hour work week, parenting responsibilities, shift work, and the night classes we take to get ahead easily deplete our time for relaxation and enjoyment.

Those being only the regular responsibilities, we have to ask ourselves, who’s going to mow the lawn, wash the car, and get the groceries?

Our long list of obligations leaves us with precious little time to wind down and chill out at the end of the day. This need for leisure time at the day’s end is normal and understandable. The more we get squeezed by our jam-packed busy lives, the greater our chances of developing revenge bedtime procrastination.

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What is Revenge Bedtime Procrastination?

The term bedtime procrastination was first introduced in 2014. It’s defined as “failing to go to bed at the intended time, while no external circumstances prevent a person from doing so.”(p. 1) [1]

The addition of the word revenge emerged during the COVID-19 pandemic in China as a response to their grueling 996 schedules (9 AM to 9 PM, six days per week). The phrase, ‘bàofùxìng áoyè,’ is more accurately translated from Chinese as retaliatory staying up late.[2]

Revenge bedtime procrastination definitely concerns sleep experts about another wrench in our global quest for better sleep. [3]

The phenomenon is markedly different from simply staying up late or not being able to sleep once the lights are out. A specific characteristic is that a person is aware that the decision to delay sleep will have a negative impact.

However, that need for relaxation seems to take over the logic of needing a good night’s sleep. Most people express their revenge for bedtime procrastination by endlessly scrolling through social media or binging on the latest TV series. [4]

Learn More: What Happens After One Night of Poor Sleep?

Sleep Deprivation and Insufficient Sleep

Although revenge bedtime procrastination is a relatively new term, the knowledge that good sleep is crucial to health and daytime performance is well-established. Furthermore, the problem of sleep deprivation is getting much more serious for US citizens and for our neighbors across the planet. [5]

Public health experts continue to sound the alarm that sleep deprivation, insomnia, and other forms of insufficient sleep contribute tremendously to the existing burden of human diseases:

Insufficient Sleep Contribute:

  • Derailment of Body Systems

  • Cardiovascular Problems

  • Diabetes Mellitus

  • Cognitive Function [6]

  • Hormone-Related Issues

  • Ongoing Pain

  • Heart Disease

  • Weaker Immune System

Along with the above mentioned, you may also have symptoms including:

Revenge Bedtime Procrastination Symptoms

  • Stress and Anxiety

  • Feeling Irritated

  • Slower Thinking

  • Decline in Decision Making

  • Poor Memory

  • Low Attention Span

The pandemic further blurred the lines in having a definitive separation between work time and time at home. Although the dramatic increase in remote work opportunities was welcome to many, the downside was that millions in the US literally never mentally or emotionally leave work. [7]

What Causes Bedtime Procrastination?

So, if we know something is bad for our health, why can’t we just stop? Well, according to many in the field of human behavior, it's a tall order.

A groundbreaking clinical study published in Frontiers in Psychology gives valuable insight. This research indicates that those who keep putting off desires for leisure time during the day are more likely to experience greater revenge bedtime procrastination. [8]

The research indicates that self-denial has a negative impact on abilities in appropriate self-regulation. By the time we get to the end of our demanding day, we become resource-depleted and are unable to make healthy decisions regarding sleep.[9]

So, all those times that we refuse to take a break or snatch a breath of fresh air after a stressful meeting work against us in a major way.

Revenge bedtime

Another study used functional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to document that sleep deprivation leads to an over-reliance on habit instead of goal-directed performance.

This makes our tendency to fall back on bad habits much more pronounced.[10] As we become more tired, cognition grows progressively more impaired, [11] making us more prone to the risk-taking behavior of revenge bedtime procrastination.

Revenge bedtime procrastination creates a ‘Catch 22’ of sorts. Workers desperately need time to detach from the pressures of work and family obligations. The only time they can get this respite is after the kids are finally in bed, dinner is done, and bills are paid. Getting these small stressbusters, though, interferes with high-quality sleep.[12]

Read More: How Blue Light Affects Sleep

Signs of Revenge Bedtime Procrastination

Recognizing the signs is the first step in tackling revenge bedtime procrastination.

Here are some telltale red flags:

  • Staying up progressively later, even when tired

  • Binging on Netflix into the wee hours

  • Your only private time is after everyone else is asleep

  • Drowsiness and cognitive fatigue occur regularly during the day [13]

Admittedly, even the best of sleepers stay up late to get that last Marvel movie off of the watch-list. The major difference is this: even though you're aware of the negative impact on your daily life and/or your health, you continue to stay up late to get time for yourself. [14-15]

It’s important to note that those who find themselves procrastinating in other areas of life are more prone to revenge bedtime procrastination. People with insomnia also may be more likely to have this challenge. [16]

One study found that women and students were more likely to engage in bedtime procrastination. [17]

How to Beat Revenge Bedtime Procrastination

Despite the havoc that revenge bedtime procrastination causes, it’s definitely a beatable condition. We recommend the following 4 tips:

  1. Do a brief self-inventory of why you aren’t going to bed on time.
  2. Plan time during the day for stress-reducing activities–smelling flowers really does help!
  3. Follow through with a cut-off time for TV-binging and other time-eating habits.
  4. Develop a list of pre-bedtime activities that will slowly wind you down. [18]
  5. Be consistent and, additionally, be realistic in your expectations.
  6. Find time to relax during the day. A 10-minute walk or deep breathing exercises.
  7. Prioritize your day. It’s ok to say no to free up time during the day.

Try this great 3-minute bedtime yoga routine.

Healthy Sleep Habit Formation

In the world of improving sleep, healthy habit formation encompasses many strategies. A bedroom environment that's conducive to sleep is well-supported by research to help you receive quality sleep though you feel like staying up.

Limit the Use of Electronics

Free yourself from electronic devices 30-60 minutes prior to bedtime. This decreases mental stimulation and minimizes blue light, which can keep us awake.

Meditation Exercises

Many meditations and breathing routines can effectively clear your mind and slow your metabolism.

White Noise

“White noise,” or sound-masking equipment, such as from a fan, has been shown to induce sleep.

Finding What Works for You

Revenge bedtime procrastination is probably not a new problem, just new to our awareness and compounded by the pandemic as well as our increasingly industrialized societies. But the beauty of individualized sleep habits is that you create something that works best for you. Every little bit helps when trying to maintain your bedtime ritual!

Downtime is important for relaxation and restoration, but it is also crucial to get enough sleep. Sleep is essential for optimal wellness, and it allows the body and mind to recuperate.

Citations/Resources

[1] Kroese, F. M., De Ridder, D. T., Evers, C., & Adriaanse, M. A. (2014). Bedtime procrastination: Introducing a new area of procrastination. Frontiers in psychology, 5, 611. View Study

[2] Liang, Lu (2020, November 25). Many young Chinese workers prioritise leisure time over sleep after long work days – even though they know it’s unhealthy. What’s driving this behaviour? BBC. View Resource

[3] Sweeney, E. (2021, November 6). Sleep specialists explain the “Revenge Bedtime Procrastination” phenomenon. Good Housekeeping. View Resource

[4] Ibid.

[5] Phillips (2019, March 7). In recognition of World Sleep Day, Philips presents its annual global sleep survey results. View Study

[6] Chattu, V. K., Manzar, M. D., Kumary, S., Burman, D., Spence, D. W., & Pandi-Perumal, S. R. (2018). The Global Problem of Insufficient Sleep and Its Serious Public Health Implications. Healthcare (Basel, Switzerland), 7(1), 1. View Study

[7] Cline, J., (2021, June 27). What is revenge bedtime procrastination? Psychology Today. View Resource

[8] Kamphorst, B. A., Nauts, S., De Ridder, D., & Anderson, J. H. (2018). Too depleted to turn in: The relevance of end-of-the-day resource depletion for reducing bedtime procrastination. Frontiers in psychology, 9, 252. View Study

[9] Ibid.

[10] Chen, J., Liang, J., Lin, X., Zhang, Y., Zhang, Y., Lu, L. Shi, J. (2017). Sleep deprivation promotes habitual control over goal-directed control: Behavioral and neuroimaging evidence. Journal of Neuroscience 6 37 (49) 11979-11992; DOI: View Study

[11] Ibid.

[12] Liang, Lu (2020, November 25). Many young Chinese workers prioritise leisure time over sleep after long work days – even though they know it’s unhealthy. What’s driving this behaviour? BBC. View Resource

[13] Sweeney, E. (2021, November 6). Sleep specialists explain the “Revenge Bedtime Procrastination” phenomenon. Good Housekeeping. View Resource

[14] Ibid.

[15] Liang, Lu (2020, November 25). Many young Chinese workers prioritise leisure time over sleep after long work days – even though they know it’s unhealthy. What’s driving this behaviour? BBC. View Resource

[16] Sweeney, E. (2021, November 6). Sleep specialists explain the “Revenge Bedtime Procrastination” phenomenon. Good Housekeeping. View Resource

[17] Herzog-Krzywoszanska R, Krzywoszanski L. Bedtime procrastination, sleep-related behaviors, and demographic factors in an online survey on a Polish sample. Front Neurosci. 2019;13:963. doi:10.3389/fnins.2019.00963

[18] Cline, J., (2021, June 27). What is revenge bedtime procrastination? Psychology Today.View Resource

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