Revenge Bedtime Procrastination – Identifying And Breaking The Cycle

“A new term for an age-old problem” – Shelby Harris (Behavioural sleep medicine specialist)

What Is Revenge Bedtime Procrastination?

Simply put, if you find yourself purposely and consistently delaying sleep in order to have more “me time” , then you are engaging in Revenge Bedtime Procrastination.

If you are engulfed with work, school or looking after an entire household on a day-to-day basis, you can find yourself left with not enough free time to do the things you want. Come night-time, instead of sleeping at a reasonable hour you put it off to use those seemingly peaceful hours by yourself to do whatever makes you happy. The term itself is derived from the centuries-old Chinese phrase “bàofùxìng áoyè” which loosely translates to “retaliatory staying up late”.

As of June 2020, the concept of Revenge Bedtime Procrastination gained rapid traction on social media after journalist Daphne K. Lee tweeted the phrase and elaborated that people who engage in it are people who don’t have much control over their daytime life refuse to sleep early in order to regain some sense of freedom during late-night hours”.

The word ‘Revenge’ highlights that choosing not to sleep is seen as a small act of defiance or rebellion committed in order to reclaim hours lost during the day engaging in less pleasurable activities.

Ever since the pandemic hit, with stay-at-home orders the lines have been blurred for many people –  working from home creates a sense of living at work. Housewives find themselves engaging in housework constantly with lesser free time or the ability to safely leave the house. Hence, if you feel like your work demands are ever-increasing during the day, you will be more susceptible to engaging in Revenge Bedtime Procrastination. 

The trap that is Revenge Bedtime Procrastination.

Unlike other forms of procrastination, this particular act does not leave us with a lingering sense of obligation, but rather leaves us feeling calm.

“The only positive with revenge sleep procrastination is that there’s a false appearance that you have more control over your life. This is very reinforcing and will entice you to continue this behavior, even though the risks outweigh the rewards. There is no genuine positive effect to reducing the quality and time of your sleep. Consistent and good quality sleep is the foundation of sound physical and mental health.”– Sara Makin (Behavioural Psychologist)

The following are adverse effects of poor sleep quality:

  • Weak immunity, making it easier for you to get sick.
  • High blood pressure
  • Weight gain.
  • Increased risk of heart disease.
  • Brain fog/ inability to think clearly and make decisions.
  • Reduced efficiency.
  • Increased exhaustion.
  • Memory loss.
  • Moods Swings.

Breaking This Bad Habit

Don’t worry! It may be easy to fall into this trap but it is also easy to escape it. Here are some ways.

Carve out time for yourself during the day and maximise it. Set aside at least an hour during the day for yourself. You can sit in your garden, on your roof, go for a drive, meet up with a friend, or video-call someone you care about. Even making and enjoying your afternoon tea or coffee can be a ritual of self-love if you deem it as such.

Filter your schedule. Plan out your day and remove any unnecessary tasks that do not bring you joy, find a way around them.

Realise the importance of sleep and be firm. Sleep is another form of self-love that we must adhere to, have a firm talk with yourself and train your mind to sleep at a fixed time, and wake up at a fixed time, even on your days off.

Power down. Take an hour before your bedtime to power down – this is the time to put on your favourite face mask, light up some candles, take a relaxing warm bath, do some light yoga, and maybe even read a good book.

Turn off autoplay. We’ve all been there, stuck in the Netflix vortex of episode after episode. Turning off autoplay stops the next episode from automatically loading.

Phones off! Make it a ritual to stop using any electronic devices at least an hour before you sleep. There are multiple studies that claim blue light emitted from phones hinders melatonin production. Melatonin is a naturally occurring sleep hormone that puts you in and out of sleep. Using your phone engages your mind and makes it harder to silence your thoughts.

In Conclusion

On the surface this may seem harmless, but staying up late and waking up early affects the total time and quality of one’s sleep. Oscillating between wanting to sleep and not wanting to sleep can mess up your internal clock and lead to serious risks. Recognising the problem is the first step in fixing it. Once you practice good sleep habits, it becomes very easy to get everything back on track.

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