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

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We’ve all had one of those days before. Your alarm didn’t go off, you arrived late to work, and spent the workday in meetings while your workload piled higher and higher — and of course, getting home didn’t offer any reprieve thanks to kids, chores, extracurriculars, or whatever else it is that fills your free time.

After a day like that it’s only natural to want some time to wind down and decompress. Many of us make sure we find that time… when we should be sleeping. That behavior is so common, there’s actually a name for it: revenge bedtime procrastination.

What is revenge bedtime procrastination and why do we do it?

Revenge bedtime procrastination is the term that describes putting off bedtime in response to a hectic or stressful day. Beyond putting off sleep just to get a moment of waking peace to ourselves after a long and stressful day, it’s thought that people push off bedtime due to a lack of self-control, which may be something a person is prone to or caused by a particular situation.

Evidence suggests self control already dwindles throughout the day, so if you’ve hit your regular bedtime after pushing your self-control and good decision-making capabilities to the max, you might find yourself pushing your nightly snooze off. 

However, others speculate that it has a lot more to do with chronotypes than self control. A chronotype is a part of a classification system that helps people understand their natural sleep habits. The four commonly considered chronotypes are bear, dolphin, wolf, and lion. The wolf chronotype, for example, is more of a night owl, so people within this chronotype may experience revenge bedtime procrastination simply because their bodies prefer to be awake at night — even if they have to be up bright and early for work. 

Additionally, there seems to be a correlation between social media use and staying up late with revenge bedtime procrastination — one study found the group that experienced bedtime procrastination the most spent approximately 451 percent more time per day on their phones three hours before bedtime than the group that experienced low bedtime procrastination.

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What does revenge bedtime procrastination look like?

Revenge bedtime procrastination typically takes two different forms: Putting off getting ready for bed, or putting off going to sleep.

Overall, if you’re partaking in revenge bedtime procrastination, you probably know it. You’re staying up later than you should — and later than you need to — and overall not getting enough sleep.

Behaviors of procrastination

Some common activities people do when they’re putting off going to sleep include: 

  • Scrolling through social media or other phone apps
  • Watching TV
  • Playing video games 
  • Avoiding the bedroom or beginning a bedtime routine
  • Cleaning at night or doing other household chores

Who is most affected by revenge bedtime procrastination?

As is the case with most things, some groups are more likely to be affected by revenge bedtime procrastination than others. One of the most predominant groups affected is women. This may be for a variety of reasons, but being a mom is likely a contributing factor (we already know moms get less sleep than their male counterparts!). Oher demographics likely to be affected may be:

The common thread? Most of these demographics are busy, busy, busy, and likely use the time before bed — or really, the time when they’re supposed to be asleep — to catch up on whatever they missed out on doing as they took care of kids, homework, or day-to-day work responsibilities.

Consequences of revenge bedtime procrastination

If you’re consistently staying up late and putting off sleep, chances are you’re sleep deprived — and that can have some pretty serious consequences. Short-term side effects include: 

  • Lack of alertness
  • Sleepiness during the day — and increased risk of drowsy driving 
  • Fatigue
  • Moodiness
  • Irritability 
  • Impaired memory 

If that isn’t off putting or scary enough, long-term effects include: 

  • Heart attack
  • Heart disease
  • Dementia 
  • High blood pressure 
  • Diabetes
  • Stroke

How to fix revenge bedtime procrastination 

The good news is, getting to bed at a reasonable time is totally within your control. Here are some of our top tips for removing bedtime procrastination from your nightly routine. 

Practice good sleep hygiene. That means intentionally creating a bedtime routine that promotes good sleep. This includes consistent bedtime/wake up times, a calming nighttime ritual, avoiding electronics later in the evening and sleeping in a cool, dark sleep environment. 

Prioritize sleep. We understand that life gets busy, and sometimes it can feel like the only time you get to yourself is when you’re supposed to be sleeping. But it’s important to remember that sleep isn’t optional — if you want to feel healthy and happy during your waking hours, it’s important to prioritize getting that 7-9 hours of sleep that experts recommend. 

Ask for help. If you’re in a position where you’re bogged down with work, childcare, or whatever else it may be, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Usually, there’s a partner, friend, or loved one who will be happy to take something off your plate so you can regain some balance in your life. 

Reset your circadian rhythm. That’s the internal clock that regulates your sleep and wake cycles, and if you’ve been staying up into the wee hours of the night, there’s a chance yours is a little off kilter. Luckily, you can get your circadian rhythm back on track by sticking to a consistent sleep schedule, sleeping in a dark room, and getting some sun exposure when you wake up — try some automated blinds or simply taking a walk in the morning sunshine to get that initial jumpstart to your day. 

Exercise. Sleep and exercise have a strong connection — exercise reduces the amount of time it takes to fall asleep and can improve sleep quality by increasing the slow wave sleep cycle. It can also help “shut off” the brain come bedtime for those who struggle with falling asleep due to anxiety and stress. 

Just don’t exercise too late at night — most experts say morning or afternoon exercise is ideal since it can also lead to the brain being more active for a few hours and an increased core temperature, neither of which are great for sleep.

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FAQ

What is revenge bedtime procrastination a symptom of? 

Revenge bedtime procrastination may signal someone has a high-stress, busy lifestyle — hence why they spend the time they should be sleeping doing entertaining, mindless activities like scrolling through social media. Bedtime procrastination is particularly prominent in women, students, and people with high-stress jobs. 

How do you solve procrastination in bedtime?

Some of the best solutions for bedtime procrastination are getting on a regular sleep and wake up schedule, prioritizing sleep in your life and resetting your circadian rhythm with cues from nature. 

Why don’t I want to sleep?

There could be a variety of different reasons you don’t want to sleep, including revenge bedtime procrastination, sleep anxiety, and fear of nightmares. If not wanting to go to sleep is a common occurrence in your life, you may want to consider speaking with your doctor to get to the bottom of it.

Last Word From Sleepopolis

We know everyone needs some me-time. But sacrificing your sleep — and potentially your short- and long-term health — just isn’t the best way to get it. Do what you can to reprioritize sleep in your life and find other windows for me-time.  Practicing good sleep hygiene, resetting your circadian rhythm, and incorporating exercise into your daily routine can go a long way in getting your sleep schedule back on track!

Jessica Banks

Jessica Banks

Jessica Banks is a health editor at Sleepopolis. Leading the charge on everything evergreen, she aims to help people get a good night's sleep whether they're struggling with a sleep disorder, searching for new sleep-friendly snacks, or trying to catch their best night's sleep on the go.