Revenge Bedtime Procrastination – Why Do We Do It & How To Stop

Continuous sleep loss can have consequences that build up over time, which can lead to significant long-term health problems down the road.

What Is “Revenge Bedtime Procrastination”?

Revenge bedtime procrastination refers to when we delay going to bed to reduce the total amount of sleep we get in total. This decision to avoid sleep is usually a response to daily stress or lack of free time throughout the day. In this way, sleep procrastination is a way of getting “revenge” on our daytime hours, which allow us little or no free time. 

Sleep procrastination cycles can take on two different forms; delaying getting into bed (bedtime procrastination) or simply avoiding sleeping once already in bed (while-in-bed procrastination). Both forms of sleep procrastination can significantly reduce the amount of important sleep one receives on a regular basis. 

Typically, three factors are required for a late night to be considered bedtime procrastination:

  • Avoiding bedtime or delaying the act of sleep, with a reduction in one’s total sleep time.
  • Staying up later than intended for no valid reason. A valid reason being external events or underlying illness. 
  • Being aware that delaying one’s bedtime could lead to negative consequences, but still being unable to sleep properly. 

The behaviours associated with bedtime procrastination often reflect procrastination in other aspects of life, including avoidance of homework, chores, or other responsibilities. Sleep may be avoided in favour of more immediate sources of enjoyment such as socializing, watching tv, or playing video games. 

What Is the Psychology Behind Bedtime Procrastination?

Sleep procrastination is still being researched within the sleep science community. The truth is, most people who experience bedtime procrastination are aware and desperately want to receive enough sleep before that alarm goes off. The problem is they consistently fail to get enough sleep which results in an intention-behaviour gap.

A simple explanation for this gap is an individual’s failure in self-regulation or self-control. It doesn’t help that our capacity for self-control is at an all-time low by the end of the day. In addition, our daily demands from work or school may reduce our levels of self-control available to us in the evening. However, some individuals could be naturally more inclined to procrastination habits in general. 

An individual’s specific chronotype may also cause sleep procrastination. When a ‘night owl’ is restricted to schedules designed for ‘early birds,’ we see an increase in revenge bedtime cycles. With revenge bedtime procrastination, sacrificing one’s sleep for leisure time may not always be seen as a failure of self-control but rather an attempt to access adequate recovery time in response to life’s stressors.

What Are the Consequences of Bedtime Procrastination?

Continuous sleep loss can have consequences that build up over time, which can lead to significant long-term health problems down the road. Below are some of the consequences of bedtime procrastination:

  • Without enough sleep, the mind and body become sleep-deprived and cannot recharge properly.
  • Without sufficient amounts of sleep, our thought processes, including our memory function and decision-making skills, begin to degrade. 
  • Sleep deprivation can increase daytime sleepiness, which may affect productivity and academic achievement and increase the risk of driving drowsy. 
  • Sleep-deprived individuals tend to be more prone to irritability and difficulty regulating emotions. In some cases, it has been linked to mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression. 
  • Irregular sleep cycles have been linked to reduced impulse control as well as self-regulation issues.  
  • Avoiding sleep can worsen physical health by making individuals more susceptible to heart problems and metabolic disorders, such as diabetes. Also, insufficient amounts of sleep can negatively impact our immune function and reduce the effectiveness of vaccines.

How To Prevent Revenge Bedtime Procrastination?

To prevent those long sleepless nights, you will want to implement these positive sleeping habits in an environment conducive to a good night’s rest. 

Tips to Help You Overcome Revenge Bedtime Procrastination include: 

  • Keep a consistent bedtime and wake-up time throughout the week, even on non-workdays.
  • Avoid alcohol or caffeine at least 2-4 hours before bedtime. 
  • Avoid screen time for at least half an hour before bedtime, including cell phones, tablets, and television. 
  • Relax by reading, meditating, or gently stretching before going to bed. Relaxing habits like these may also decrease the underlying stress that drives bedtime procrastination in the first place. 
  • Create a cozy bedroom environment. 
  • Ensure the room is dark and quiet with comfortable bedding to make sleep more appealing. 

As we go about our daily lives, it’s natural to crave more time for things throughout the day. However, when we don’t achieve the right work-life balance, we start to see our sleep negatively affected. In most cases, a healthy nighttime routine can successfully reduce the urge in us to forgo a goodnight’s sleep. 

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