Wellness·6 min read

Revenge Bedtime Procrastination Might Be The Reason You're Not Sleeping

Woman lying in bed on her phone
Design: theSkimm | Photo: iStock
Oct 12, 2022

If you find yourself telling Netflix, ‘yes, I’m still here,’ or doomscrolling  until 3 am, you might be guilty of revenge bedtime procrastination. Aka staying up late even though you know you need more sleep. The term has become hugely popular over the last couple of years. And it might be the reason you need three cups of coffee before 11 am. 

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We wanted to know more about revenge bedtime procrastination and how to get into a better bedtime routine. So we called up Lynelle Schneeberg, a sleep psychologist at Yale Medicine and author of “Become Your Child’s Sleep Coach.”  

Expert Interviewed

Lynelle Schneeberg

Lynelle Schneeberg is a sleep psychologist at Yale Medicine and author of “Become Your Child’s Sleep Coach."

Back up. What is revenge bedtime procrastination?

Revenge bedtime procrastination (RBP) is the habit of staying up late to make up for a lack of leisure time. And trading in sleep for more of it. It happens to “people who feel like they don't have enough time in the day for their own kind of personal life regeneration or restoration,” said Schneeberg. It’s kind of like going to bed early on Christmas Eve because you want Christmas to come faster…but the exact opposite.

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RBP might sound like insomnia, but it’s not. “Insomnia is defined in a different way: Despite the opportunity for enough sleep, you can't sleep,” said Schneeberg. “And revenge bedtime procrastination is not really even allotting enough time for sleep.”

And when you don’t sleep enough, you can get sleep-deprived. Which comes with both mental and physical side effects. Like anxiety, mood swings, difficulty concentrating, and memory issues. Not to mention the long-term risks: heart disease, a weakened immune system, and high blood pressure, to name a few.

Anyone could deal with RBP. But it’s common for:

  • Moms (hi, mom guilt).

  • Students.

  • People who have high-stress jobs and/or work long hours (we see you, burnout).

  • “Night-owls” who prefer to stay up late, but have to “live in an early bird’s world,” said Schneeberg.

And the pandemic has only intensified RBP, Schneeberg explained. “The boundaries between work and home are even more blurred since the pandemic. And women, especially, lost even more personal time as they took on more of the education and care of their children.” 

Staying up late to steal some time back for yourself might seem like the best solution to busy days. But in reality, it’s the opposite, according to The Washington Post. The more sleep-deprived you become, the less productive you’ll likely be at work the next day — potentially creating even longer workdays. Which encourages more RBP in order to get more time back. Talk about a vicious cycle.

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What are the most common signs of revenge bedtime procrastination?

Raise your hand if you:

  • Don’t get enough sleep and have no other underlying issues (like insomnia or illness).

  • Continue scrolling or watching TV even if you’re feeling sleepy.

  • Know that you need more sleep, but choose to stay up anyway.

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Guilty. How do I break the cycle?

Here are some expert tips on how to stop the revenge bedtime procrastination pattern:

  • Avoid caffeine in the afternoon and evening. Because it stays in your system longer than you think.

  • “Try building time for yourself much earlier in the day,” said Schneeberg. Take a hot-girl walk or read a few pages of a good book at lunch. Pro tip: Try putting 30 minutes of “sacred” or “personal” time on your work calendar during the day.

  • Delegate some of your responsibilities (whether that’s to a partner or coworker) if your day is too busy to squeeze in any ‘you time.’ 

  • Create a regular bedtime routine that includes one or two personal activities (like reading) and stick to it. Oh, and set a limit for how late you do those activities. Even if it means setting an alarm for when it’s time to stop and go to bed.

  • Get ready way before bedtime, Schneeberg suggested. “Then, when you feel drowsy, it won’t be such an effort to get to bed.” 

  • Remind yourself how good you’ll feel the next day if you get more sleep.

  • Celebrate the wins. If you managed to get to bed even ten minutes earlier than usual, be proud of yourself. 

theSkimm

Revenge bedtime procrastination is a common way to take back time for yourself. But depriving yourself of sleep in exchange for some extra 'me time' will hurt more than it helps in the long run (hi, health consequences). So try sticking to a bedtime routine instead. And take time to yourself during the day so you can fall asleep revenge-free. Your mind and body will thank you. 

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