What Is Revenge Bedtime Procrastination?

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Revenge bedtime procrastination refers to a phenomenon in which people put off going to bed to engage in activities that they don’t have time for during the day. It is a way of finding time for leisure and entertainment—at the expense of sleep.

The term ‘bedtime procrastination’ was introduced in a 2014 paper. The addition of the word ‘revenge’ first came to use in China to describe how people often working 12-hour days would stay up as their only way to take back some control of their time. 

The term became popular following a viral tweet by journalist Daphne K. Lee. She described it as something that happens when “people who don’t have much control over their daytime life refuse to sleep early to regain some sense of freedom during late night hours.”

Signs of Revenge Bedtime Procrastination

Staying up late isn’t necessarily a sign of revenge bedtime procrastination. Researchers suggest that three key features define sleep procrastination:

  • The delay in going to sleep must decrease a person's overall sleep time per night.
  • This delay in going to sleep is not due to any other reason, such as being sick of an environmental source interfering with sleep.
  • People who engage in the behavior are fully aware that it may lead to negative consequences, but they choose to engage in it anyways.

This might affect people differently depending on their situation and why they feel the need to stay up late. For parents of young children, those hours after putting the kids to bed might be the only time they have alone to focus on what they want to do. For people with hectic work schedules, lounging on the couch and binge-watching TV shows might be the only time to experience unstructured relaxation. 

Some people might use these late-night and early-morning hours to catch up on hobbies or engage in more energy-intensive activities. For most people, these activities tend to focus on things that don’t require a great deal of effort.

Online shopping, scrolling through social media posts, reading, and watching streaming services are examples of easy things that people enjoy doing when they are putting off sleep.

Who Revenge Bedtime Procrastination Affects

Revenge bedtime procrastination is something that many people engage in from time to time. People who have high-stress jobs, those who work long hours, and parents who have little time to themselves during the day are just a few of the people who frequently engage in this behavior. 

It often starts small. You might stay up to play on your phone or catch up on your favorite shows. Soon 10 or 15 minutes turns into an hour or two. In some cases, you might find yourself up well into the early hours of the morning doing inconsequential things before finally giving in and going to sleep.

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

Causes of Revenge Bedtime Procrastination

A general lack of free time during the day is the common culprit behind revenge bedtime procrastination, but other factors also play a role. 

  • A 2014 study published in the journal Frontiers of Psychology suggested that revenge bedtime procrastination was negatively correlated with self-regulation. While people who engage in this behavior want to sleep, their behaviors do not align with their intentions.
  • It is also possible that people who engage in bedtime procrastination are more prone to procrastination in general.
  • Your natural sleep patterns might also play a part. People who are naturally prone to being so-called "night owls" might have to force themselves to wake up early.
  • Research also suggests that the behavior might result from an interaction between various factors, including a person's natural sleep schedule and their self-control resources.

Recent stress related to world effects, including the 2019 global pandemic, also appeared to worsen the behavior. Reports suggest that around 40% of adults experienced increased problems with sleep during 2020.

As the line between work, home, and school became increasingly blurred, many people found that having time alone was hard to come by. Bedtime procrastination became a way for many to squeeze in some precious alone time during the late-night hours.

Impact of Revenge Bedtime Procrastination

Staying up late on occasion isn’t likely to have a major impact on your sleep schedule, health, or overall well-being. The problem is when revenge bedtime procrastination becomes a regular habit. Late nights followed by early mornings can result in sleep deprivation. That sleep deprivation can hurt your ability to function the next day and can start to affect your physical and mental health over time.

Negative effects of sleep deprivation caused by revenge bedtime procrastination can potentially include:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • High blood pressure
  • Increased risk of cardiac problems
  • Weakened immunity
  • Weight gain
  • Worse memory

Problems with physical health are often linked to poor sleep, but it is also important to note that sleep also plays a pivotal role in mental health and well-being. Research suggests that sleep problems can even cause or worsen many mental health problems including depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder.

Tips for Coping With Revenge Bedtime Procrastination

If revenge bedtime procrastination is a problem for you, here are some things can help.

Prioritize Sleep

If your goal is to get better rest, the first thing you can do is make sleep a top priority. Remind yourself why getting to bed on time is important. If you feel more rested the next day, you’re more likely to have the energy to get through the tasks you need to accomplish. 

Practice Good Sleep Habits

Establishing some quality sleep practices can improve the overall quality and amount of sleep you get. Some things you can strive to do include having a consistent bedtime and wake-time, skipping alcohol and caffeine in the afternoon and evening, and creating a comfortable sleep environment.

Assess Your Schedule

Since a busy schedule is often at the root of revenge bedtime procrastination, take a hard look at your daily demands. Cut out the things that aren’t important or that are eating up all of your time. If your daytime activities are leaving you unhappy and unfulfilled, let them go if you can.

You’re less likely to feel the need to avenge your loss of time if you don’t feel resentful of losing those precious hours of your day.

Schedule Time for Yourself

Since you’re cutting things out of your schedule, focus on replacing those unwanted activities with time to indulge in some of the things that you love. This may not always be easy, particularly for parents or professionals who don’t have the ability to step away from their obligations and responsibilities. 

One way to deal with this is to plan and prioritize “alone time” how you would anything else. Schedule that block of time for yourself, then find someone—whether it’s a friend, babysitter, partner, or family member—who can take over while you enjoy your break.

Start Your Nighttime Routine Earlier

Another way to fight revenge bedtime procrastination is to begin your nightly routine early. Set an alarm for an hour before you would normally begin getting ready for bed. Giving yourself this extra time to wind down from the day may help you feel more sleepy, which may help you resist the urge to stay up late. 

Turn Off the Digital Devices

Turn off the autoplay feature on your streaming service and skip scrolling through social media sites while lying in bed. Instead, focus on practicing relaxation habits that promote sleep, such as doing some gentle stretches, meditating, or reading a book.

A Word From Verywell

Revenge bedtime procrastination can be a tough habit to break. It might only be after feeling utterly exhausted for a few days that you feel compelled to give up those late-night delays in sleep to get some quality shuteye. Because the behavior is ultimately motivated by feeling that you don’t have control over your time during the day, reassessing how you spend your time each day is often the first step toward overcoming bedtime procrastination.

18 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Kendra Cherry, MSEd
Kendra Cherry, MS, is a psychosocial rehabilitation specialist, psychology educator, and author of the "Everything Psychology Book."