In order to talk about revenge bedtime procrastination, let’s go through a familiar chain of events.

Maybe you scramble through the morning, work, run errands, and get home later than ideal. Then chores take up what should be your free time. When the must-do’s are all over, you sit or lay down to do something you enjoy. Time to unwind. Before you know it, hours have passed. Now it’s one, two, or three in the morning, and you ask yourself “Why do I stay up so late?”

When you wake up the next day, you’re exhausted. You didn’t get enough sleep. Maybe you even beat yourself up for what happened. You needed your sleep, so why didn’t you prioritize it?

If this sounds familiar, it might not be that you lack the “willpower” or “self-control” to fall asleep. It could actually be a real phenomenon that plagues busy people: revenge bedtime procrastination.

This “bad” habit does serve a purpose, and it happens for a reason. That said, it can negatively impact your life. So, what is revenge bedtime procrastination, and how do you stop the cycle?

What is revenge bedtime procrastination, exactly?

The term revenge bedtime procrastination, which some also call “revenge sleep procrastination,” refers to the habit of staying up extra late, in order to make time for things that fulfill you, meet unmet needs, or make you feel in control.

This is an often-subconscious way to compensate for a daily schedule dedicated to everybody but yourself. You’re compensating for a day that disproportionately required you to ignore your needs and desires.

Revenge sleep procrastination isn’t the same as an involuntary inability to fall asleep, that might be caused by insomnia or overthinking keeping you awake. Sometimes bedtime feels like the only thing you have control over in a day, so it’s natural to extend that transition in order to have some say in your schedule.

This might be your only time for yourself, but by extending it at the expense of sleep, you may sacrifice your health. 

What happens when we miss out on sleep?

There can be a number of different consequences for those who miss out on sleep for any reason, whether the cause is revenge bedtime procrastination or something else. When you don’t get enough sleep, it can lead to:

  • Headaches.
  • Irritability or agitation.
  • Trouble concentrating or focusing.
  • Body aches and muscle pain.
  • An increased risk of car accidents, which heightens even further as the amount of sleep you lose increases.
  • Decreased performance at work in school.
  • Feelings of depression and a higher risk of depressive disorders.
  • Feelings of anxiety and a higher risk of anxiety disorders.
  • GI distress and digestive issues, including the potential worsening of symptoms related to existing health concerns, like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). 
  • An increased risk of heart failure, high blood pressure, irregular heartbeat, heart attacks, or heart disease.
  • A higher risk of stroke.
  • Daytime fatigue.

Although these concerns may range in severity, and despite the fact that we can’t always get as much sleep as we’d like to, when we are in control, it is important to get enough rest as a means to care for our well-being. So, what can you do if that sweet time spent on what you want to do is something you look forward to, but you know you need to stop? There are some things that you can do. 

You deserve time for the things that make you tick – but choosing when to devote that time is an important part of the equation.

Tips to stop revenge sleep procrastination 

There are ways to go to sleep you need without sacrificing the rest of your life. Here are some tips that can help you stop revenge sleep procrastination and the possible negative consequences:

1. Intentionally set a reasonable bedtime.

Sometimes some intentionality can help the urge to stay up late.

Many sleep experts suggest that you try to fall asleep around the same time each night if you can. If you know you tend to stay up too late, aim for a reasonable bedtime. But don’t be too ambitious! Just like starving yourself can lead to binge eating, trying to sleep too early can lead you to stay up even later. So, how late can you stay up while still feeling ok the next day?

If you need to, use timers and other tools to make sure you go to bed on time. If it is still challenging, you might ask someone else you live with to check in with you a certain amount of time before bed to help hold you accountable.

2. Implement helpful sleep hygiene practices into your nighttime routine.

Many people find that a steady, supportive nightly routine has a positive impact on their sleep. Research backed components of sleep hygiene can include limiting alcohol and caffeine, sleeping in a cool, dark, clean room, and putting electronics away before bed.

Experts also recommend that you engage in physical activity, expose yourself to sunlight, and limit naps throughout the day, in order to fall asleep easier at night. Some people find that engaging in meditation before bed, using white noise makers, and other practices, like breathing exercises, help them wind down and fall asleep. 

3. Get the not-so-fun parts of your nightly routine done sooner rather than later.

Once you establish your nighttime routine, there might be parts of it that you don’t look forward to. Maybe, that is washing your face, brushing your teeth, or household chores, such as sweeping the floor or doing the dishes. Get those things out of the way first. That way, when it is time for bed, you aren’t dreading the last steps.

4. Aim for a healthy work-life balance.

Work-life balance has two parts; here’s the physical part, and then, the mental component. It’s not just about how much you work (often out of your control), but how much time you spend thinking about your job (in your control).

It’s okay, for example, to limit yourself to only checking your work phone or email during work hours. If you are self-employed, you might develop a schedule with set work hours for yourself to better balance the day.

5. Prioritize the activities you enjoy.

Sometimes, the habits and routines of everyday life get stale. If there’s something new you enjoy doing, and you don’t consciously add it to your routine, it might get tacked onto the end of your day – when you really need to sleep.

It could be that there is time you can use during your day, or earlier in the evening and on weekends, for your hobbies. Although it’s not possible for everyone, try to make the mindful choice to set a distinct chunk of time on specific days for the activity you typically stay up too late on. 

One last tip? Doing things you enjoy is a necessity. Hobbies aren’t as frivolous as we make them out to be, and they’re worth setting aside time for. You deserve time for the things that make you tick – but choosing when to devote that time is an important part of the equation.

Not only is there no shame in the parts of life that are solely for enjoyment, but there are definite advantages to doing what you like to do. Research shows that hobbies actually have a positive impact on your overall well-being, including your physical, emotional, and psychological health.

When you spend time on hobbies, you may experience benefits like lower stress, lower levels of depression and anxiety, social connectedness, and a more positive mood. Life is more than work and other standard obligations, and it can be easy to forget that. It’s also about the things and people you love. Don’t feel guilty, and know that there’s no need to put it off; whether it is something simple that makes you smile or a deep, elaborate passion you’ve had since childhood, make it happen if you can. 

If you’re still struggling? Talk to someone. 

Maybe, you notice that life stress is getting you down, or you feel emotionally tired no matter what you do. Perhaps, you simply need a place to vent or find another person to talk to. Peer support options such as Supportiv can help. Supportiv is available 24/7. It’s anonymous, and your privacy is protected. It’s affordable, and it’s easy to get started. Once you sign up, you can start talking with someone in minutes or less. Supportiv is here for you when you need it. Click here to try it, or read our FAQs to learn more.