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What is Revenge Bedtime Procrastination?

Last March, I noticed that I’d fallen into a pattern that just didn’t make much sense to me. I was homeschooling three kids AND running a new-to-me business during a pandemic AND planning a gym move, so I was absolutely exhausted. And yet, I’d lie awake in bed every single night, scrolling Instagram until 2 or 3 a.m. as I fought to keep my eyes open. Only recently did I learn that this is actually a sleep disorder known as revenge bedtime procrastination.

Maybe you can relate. If you’ve ever stayed up way past your bedtime to scroll on your phone, read a book, binge Netflix, play video games, or do any other activity that brings immediate gratification, then you may have experienced revenge bedtime procrastination.  

Today, I want to tell you a little about this phenomenon and how to prevent it, so that you can get on the path to better sleep and better health.

What is Revenge Bedtime Procrastination?

Revenge bedtime procrastination refers to the conscious decision to delay sleep when you’re tired and know you should go to bed.

The term has only become popular in the last year or so, which makes a lot of sense when you dig into why we procrastinate at bedtime in the first place.

Revenge bedtime procrastination often stems from feeling overworked and burned out, from feeling like you’re not in control of your life, and/or from feeling like you’re missing out on fun and enjoyment.

Let’s think about the past 12 months, shall we? Have you:

  • missed out on parties, and holidays, and traveling, and concerts?
  • had to learn a completely new way of working, and/or manage homeschooling?
  • learned that we can’t always control everything in our lives?
  • felt more exhausted and overwhelmed than you ever have in your whole life?

Yep. Me too. And this is where the “aha” moment came for me. Of course I was staying up too late to do fun stuff when I was already exhausted.

From a practical standpoint, bedtime felt like the only time of day when I could do fun things (during a time I was desperately missing fun). And, from an emotional standpoint, making the choice to stay up late made me feel like I had a sense of control during a very chaotic time.

Unfortunately, this behavior could have some negative health consequences over time.

Why Sleep Matters

It might not seem like that big a deal to sacrifice sleep in the name of fun. Sure, you’ll be tired tomorrow and maybe a bit crabby, but you’ll live, right?

One bad night of sleep every now and again isn’t that big a deal.

But what if you’re regularly staying up too late? You’ll need to find another way to get that frustration and sadness and anger out, my friend. Studies have linked chronic sleep deprivation with a whole mess of health problems, including obesity, cardiovascular disease, and mental illness.

How to End the Cycle of Revenge Bedtime Procrastination

Back to last March. Luckily, I was able to (mostly) nip this behavior in the bud, once I put my finger on why I was doing it in the first place. Here are some ways that you can do the same.

  1. Acknowledge what you’re going through. It’s hard being an adult, even when we’re not living through a pandemic! My therapist (yep, I’ve gone for years!) has been very helpful in encouraging me to express my feelings about the pandemic, and in reassuring me that it’s normal to feel grief and anger right now.  
  2. Create a bedtime routine that includes consistent bed and wakeup times and an electronics ban for at least 1 hour before bed. Here are a few more tips for creating better sleep routines.
  3. The most important step is to schedule fun breaks throughout your day, and don’t skip them! There’s no law saying you can’t watch an episode of Schitt’s Creek between work calls! Finding time for stress relief and fun during the day can go a long way toward feeling like you need revenge on your routine at bedtime.

Now that we’ve discussed why revenge bedtime procrastination occurs and what to do about it, I’d love to hear from you! Have you noticed yourself putting off bedtime during the pandemic? How have you been spending your time?

Please let me know in the comments!

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