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The Mindset of Revenge-Bedtime Procrastination: How It Affects Our Life And Productivity

Photo by kris on Unsplash

According to an article by the Sleep Foundation, “revenge bedtime procrastination” describes the decision to sacrifice sleep for leisure time. Why does this happen? This may come about when we do not have enough time to relax (or have “me time”) during the day due to work or our other commitments.

What’s the difference between sleeping late and “bedtime procrastination”? There are three defining factors:

  • A purposeful delay that reduces your total amount of sleep
  • The absence of a valid reason for staying up later than intended
  • An awareness that delaying one’s bedtime could lead to negative consequences

A journalist named Daphne (@daphnekylee) tweeted that she recently learned of this term, whereby people who don’t have much control over their daytime life refuse to sleep early. This was so that they could “gain back” their freedom during those late nights. The term “revenge” in this situation is used to describe getting back at our day by staying up — “taking back control” of the time we had lost.

This term was popularised in China, as the main demographic who were practicing revenge bedtime procrastination were those who worked long 12-hour days. Their jobs take so much out of them, that the only leisure time possible is when they get home. The high-stress environment can contribute to the need to relax, which results in procrastination at night. The Sleep Foundation described this as “an attempt to find recovery time in response to stress.”

Personal time for ourselves can take the form of leisure activities that we do not have the time for during the day. It could be binge-watching a TV series, mindlessly scrolling through your phone, reading, catching up with your loved ones. Regardless of what you do during this personal time, the main point is that it delays your sleep and you are aware that you shouldn’t be staying up.

So, why do many of us still keep doing this?

This phrase may have been popularised in China, but this feeling is felt worldwide by overwhelmed employees.

Even if it’s not from long hours or being overworked, the common denominator is the constant stress. The nature of the job may be taxing. “[These are] People who have little time for themselves, perhaps because they work long hours, long travel time back and forth, juggling multiple jobs, or having a full-time job while taking care of kids,” says Mohamed Sameen, MD, a sleep specialist at the Sleep Disorders Center at St. Charles Hospital in Port Jefferson, New York. Not being able to truly leave your work at the office when you come home can also lead to constant stress and eventual burnout. It’s important to have proper rest, where we mentally detach ourselves from work. Without it, this would explain why people are willing to sacrifice sleep for rare personal time for themselves.

Another possible reason could be the lack of time management or self-regulation. According to an article published in Frontiers in Psychology, it was discovered that some bedtime procrastinators weren’t actually against sleeping early — they were just unwilling to stop their other activities in order to sleep.

How will revenge bedtime procrastination then affect our life and productivity?

Essentially, you are procrastinating your well-needed rest.

The most obvious effect of bedtime procrastination is sleep deprivation. Though sleep deprivation is the main consequence, sleep deprivation can create several negative effects on your health (both physically and mentally). It can take a toll on your physical well-being, such as impacting your ability to concentrate, chronic health conditions such as high blood pressure and heart disease, and weakened immunity due to the lack of self-care. The lack of sleep can also affect your mental health.

It can lead to feelings of anxiousness and depression. It can also affect overall cognitive function, such as memory problems and decision-making capabilities.

How do we defeat this?

Here are some tips on how we can tackle this head-on:

Start with baby steps. Try to slip in short 10–15 minute breaks in your day — to not think of work for a bit, grab a bite, get some fresh air.

After getting those mini-breaks, reflect on how (and when) you can schedule time for yourself.

For the long run, learn to identify the factors contributing to your stress and determine what can guide you through them. Learning relaxation techniques can also decrease the stress that leads to revenge bedtime procrastination.

Setting a nighttime routine can also reduce the need to stay up instead of going to bed. Here are some of the positive sleep habits you can apply:

  • Have a fixed sleep time and wake-up time (this routine includes days when you are not working)
  • Avoid having caffeine late in the afternoon or evening
  • Stop using your electronic devices for at least half an hour (preferably longer) before bed
  • Set up a comfortable sleep space so that your body recognizes that it is time to go to bed

For those fortunate enough to be in the position to consider, there is the option of changing jobs to one that is less demanding.

I hope this article gives you better insight into the psychology of revenge bedtime procrastination! Though we empathize that many have practiced this due to stress, it is still an unhealthy habit that we need to break. In the long run, revenge bedtime procrastination will negatively impact a person.

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Lily Low

Lily Low

“No darkness, no season is eternal.” | Writes about mental health, music, current issues, life, poetry, and faith.

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