A new COVID by-product? Stressed people are reclaiming their leisure time late at night instead of going to bed
When bedtime approaches, do you ignore the clock and your need for sleep? Maybe you choose the time to engage in leisure and entertainment activities you didn’t have a chance to enjoy during the day. Do you read, surf the net, scroll social media, play games, watch streaming services or shop online? At the expense of sleep? You might be aware that your “revenge bedtime procrastination” is a not-so-great habit and may negatively impact your day tomorrow – but you’re okay with that. What might surprise you is that this trend of sacrificing sleep is growing.
Though it has received quite a bit of media attention with the anxiety and stress of COVID, “revenge bedtime procrastination” was first identified in 2014. Researchers started noticing that some people who worked long hours delayed sleep as a means of taking control back of their time. It was thought these people saw it as a way of regaining some sense of freedom in the later evening hours – a type of revenge for not being able to choose how the majority of their days were spent.
It’s important to note that revenge bedtime procrastination is a choice, while insomnia is often not and can be chalked up to myriad of causes. And it can creep up slowly – just putting off sleep by 15 or 20 minutes to do something mindless, then increasing until it becomes hours. Soon, you could find your window for sleep to be quite narrow because you procrastinated so much, leading to anxiety and then perhaps insomnia about how little time you have to actually sleep.
Who’s most likely to be a revenge bedtime procrastinator?
We’ve all stayed up later knowing we’ll pay the fun tax with a sleepy, irritable and not mentally sharp day. Life happens, right? When our “revenge bedtime procrastination” becomes a habit, it can lead to more serious problems associated with sleep deprivation, everything from increased risk of dementia to a weakened immune system and depression.
Revenge bedtime procrastination is more prevalent among those who work very long hours, have stressful jobs and don’t have any me-time to catch their breath during the day. Women, students and parents of young children are the primary candidates for it. Sometimes moms and dads have no other time available for unstructured leisure time other than what’s left after the kids are in bed.
If you’re someone who’s always running late – for work, for submitting assignments, and getting tasks done in a timely manner, you’re also more prone to revenge bedtime procrastination. A 2014 study also found that if you’re someone who struggles with self-regulation in general, you’re more susceptible. This involves being able to control your thoughts, behavior and emotions, especially in a challenging situation. It’s like the diabetic who says no to foods they know are bad for their blood sugar levels. Or drivers who refrained themselves from screaming and yelling after another vehicle cuts them off.
Overcoming revenge bedtime procrastination begins with being able to turn off the lights, go to bed and turn off all your electronic devices because it’s the healthiest choice.
What causes revenge bedtime procrastination and why does it matter?
The occasional late night won’t be a problem for most people. But when sleep procrastination becomes the norm, it opens the door to the long list of emotional and physical health problems that not getting enough sleep causes, not to mention not being able to be fully functional the next day.
And if you already experience anxiety and depression, or have bipolar disorder, inviting sleep deprivation into your life is like pouring gasoline onto the fire.
How to avoid falling into the revenge bedtime procrastination trap
- Reassess your daily schedule. Revenge bedtime procrastination is a giant red flag that something is amiss and the demands you face outpace the time spend enjoying life. The good news is that it pushes you to take a hard look at your schedule. Pare down and get rid of whatever you can. Reduce the time spent on activities that are not fulfilling or adding to your happiness bucket.
- Prioritize me time. Squeeze in some chill time whenever you can. Eat lunch outside surrounded by nature, take short walks when you have a break, do some guided mediation at your desk using an app, or practice slow, deep breaths for five to 10 minutes while parked in your car. Parents can take turns watching the kids while dad takes a bubble bath or mom catches up on her favorite crime show.
- Develop self-regulation strategies. Psychologists will often recommend mindfulness to help with self-regulation. It’s an ideal way to slow down your thinking so you have time to make conscious, healthy decisions. Also reframe the way you think about sleep. Remind yourself it’s an important part of a healthy life. You can always play video games, use streaming services or browse social media another day. Edit your life by staying away from stressful situations and toxic people as much as possible.
- Practice good sleep habits. One of the best things you can do is to set a consistent bedtime and stick to it. Leading up to it, start your wind-down routine – a cup of tea, slow stretching, reading (a physical book, not something digital), or writing in a journal. To avoid revenge bedtime procrastination, give yourself enough time to gear down and begin your nighttime routine earlier if you need to. And finally, turn off your phone, or at least, all notifications and alerts, then put it where you can’t just roll over in bed and grab it. Don’t procrastinate on setting yourself up for sleep success.
Rest well & wake up ready to go!
Better sleep gives rise to better mornings, bringing your goals into focus and dreams within reach. Hungry for more sleep info? Dig into these posts:
- Do you suffer from sleep anxiety?
- The ultimate bedtime snacking guide
- The essential guide to creating a bed(room) you’ll love sleeping in