3 Signs You're Not A Night Owl ... You're A Victim Of 'Revenge Bedtime Procrastination'

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Revenge Bedtime Procrastination: Why It Happens & How To Stop

If you’ve ever found yourself intentionally putting off going to sleep at night to do things you weren’t able to get done during the day, you may be dealing with ‘revenge bedtime procrastination.’

What is "revenge bedtime procrastination"?

Researchers coined the phrase ‘bedtime procrastination’ in 2014 to describe the phenomenon of putting off going to sleep for no crucial reason.

The study, published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology, recruited 203 participants to complete a self-assessment survey regarding the average number of hours they sleep each night as well as their procrastination and self-regulation habits.

Researchers found that the phenomenon of sleep procrastination “is indeed commonly experienced” and “a possible cause for insufficient sleep.”

Journalist Daphne K. Lee is credited with making the ‘revenge’ modifier popular when describing the reason why people tend to procrastinate going to sleep, explaining that “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.”

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The term gained popularity during the COVID-19 pandemic when more people began working from home, where distractions and time management issues made it more difficult to unplug.

Long work hours and the high-stress lifestyles so many of us live can make it feel impossible to have leisure time during the day to do the things you actually enjoy, leaving people no choice but to make time, often at the expense of a full night’s sleep.

Revenge bedtime procrastination is not the same as staying up late because of increased energy at night, such as the case with night owls.

Rather, like general procrastination, it is associated with low self-regulation, or the ability to manage and adjust your own behavior according to what’s going on around you.

However, researchers note that while procrastination in general typically involves putting off “aversive tasks” such as studying or going to the post office, putting off sleep is unique in that going to sleep is actually desirable for most people.

Researchers theorize that people engage in revenge bedtime procrastination not necessarily because they don’t want to go to sleep, but because they don’t want to stop doing whatever it is that they’re doing at bedtime.

According to a follow-up sleep procrastination study, signs of revenge bedtime procrastination include:

1. Delaying going to bed and decreasing the hours of sleep you’ll get.

For example, you set a bedtime of 11 PM so that you can get a full night of rest before your 7 AM alarm. However, you stay up past 11 PM knowing despite still having to get up at 7 AM regardless of the time you go to sleep, decreasing the amount of sleep you get.

2. Not having any valid reason to stay up past your sleep time.

Sometimes, going to sleep too late is unavoidable. Staying up to pick someone up from the airport or waiting up for your kids to get home are considered valid reasons, while simply staying up because you don’t feel like going to bed yet are not.

3. Knowing that staying up will have negative consequences.

You’re actively aware that you’re going to feel extra tired in the morning but stay up anyway.

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How do I stop revenge procrastination?

While revenge bedtime procrastination is not a mental illness or sleep disorder, the lack of sleep such procrastination causes can certainly stir up mental health issues such as depression as well as physical issues like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and memory problems.

The National Sleep Foundation advises that adults should get between 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night. Unfortunately, according to the revenge bedtime procrastination study, 61% of adults are getting just 5-7 hours of sleep per night.

It’s crucial to practice good sleep hygiene to ensure you’re getting enough sleep and improve your sleep quality. Here's how:

1. Avoid caffeine before bed.

Ideally, any caffeine you have during the day should only be consumed in the morning. If you’re craving a cup of something at night, opt for caffeine-free herbal teas or decaf coffee.

2. Create a bedtime routine.

Following a bedtime routine will help your body get in the habit of relaxing, making it easier for you to fall asleep when the time comes.

Have a set bedtime that you adhere to every night and stick to it.

3. Keep electronics out of your bedroom.

Your bedroom should be a dark, quiet oasis that’s only used for sleep. The blue light that phones and TVs emit can disrupt your body clock.

In fact, it’s advised not to use any electronics within an hour of bedtime. Instead, try reading a book or doing another relaxing activity to calm your mind.

4. Revise your schedule.

While there are some things that unfortunately can’t be removed from your day-to-day life (like work), take some time to notice how you spend your time. Adjust your daily schedule accordingly and make changes where you can.

For example, note how many hours a day you mindlessly scroll through TikTok — it’s probably eating more of your time than you think! If grocery shopping takes up too much of your free time, see if you can afford to have your groceries delivered every once in a while to save time.

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Micki Spollen is an editor, writer, and traveler. Follow her on Instagram and keep up with her travels on her website.

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