“Bedtime procrastination” refers to putting off sleep to engage in activities for which there isn’t time during the day. It prioritizes leisure or entertainment activities over sleep.
The term “bedtime procrastination” first appeared in a 2014 paper. The word “revenge” was added in China to describe the way people working extremely long hours would stay up late because it was their only way to take back some of their time.
Journalist Daphne K. Lee popularized the term “revenge bedtime procrastination” in 2020, in a viral Tweet in which she said it happens when “people who don’t have control over their daytime life refuse to sleep early to regain some sense of freedom during late night hours.”
Sound familiar? Keep reading to learn more about revenge bedtime procrastination, its health effects, and how to deal so you can get your sleep back on track.
Causes of revenge bedtime procrastination
Revenge bedtime procrastination occurs most often among people who have long work hours, hold high-stress jobs, are students, or care for young children. They know that putting off bedtime may have negative consequences, but they choose to do it anyway because they value the “extra time” they get more than they’re concerned about those consequences.
In the moment, anyway, they may see lounging and watching TV as their only opportunity for rest and relaxation—and choose not to think about “the price they will pay” the next day.
“Some studies have shown that, in general, cis women tend to be the biggest sufferers of sleep procrastination,” says Haley Neidich, Florida-based licensed clinical social worker. “In my practice, this seems especially to be the case for women with families who both work and manage the bulk of the parenting and home life responsibilities.”
There are also studies suggesting that people who engage in revenge bedtime procrastination may be prone to procrastination in general. Then there are people who are naturally inclined to be “night owls” and have to force themselves to wake up early in the morning.
Health effects of revenge bedtime procrastination
Whether it’s called bedtime or sleep procrastination, or bedtime revenge procrastination, it has basically the same effects as sleep deprivation for people who have a limited sleep timeframe. “Not getting adequate rest can decrease your ability to perform at work, worsen focus and memory, and increase irritability which can contribute to conflicts in interpersonal relationships,” Neidich says.
Long-term sleep deprivation is associated with several chronic health conditions, including heart disease and diabetes. “Any reduction in the quality or quantity of sleep may also increase one’s risk for developing other mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression,” Neidich adds.
How to deal with revenge bedtime procrastination
Fortunately, there are ways to address the issue. One basic thing to do if your goal is to get better rest is to make sleep a priority and practice good sleep habits—such as keeping a consistent bedtime and wake-up time, avoiding alcohol and caffeine in the afternoon and evening, and making your sleep environment conducive to getting quality sleep.
“Ongoing sleep procrastination can be a self-fulfilling prophecy,” says Neidich, which she says is the reason it should be addressed as soon as you’re aware it’s an issue. She offers these tips for decreasing, if not eliminating altogether, this behavior:
- Learn to say no and set boundaries at work and in your personal life.
- Ask for additional support.
- Make a career change, carving out downtime for yourself during your day.
- Reduce social media and news consumption.
- Limit your allotted procrastination time to under one hour.
What is revenge bedtime procrastination?
Revenge bedtime procrastination means putting off bedtime—despite knowing the negative impact it will likely have on you the next day—as a way to “take back” free time for yourself that your work or other responsibilities don’t let you enjoy during the regular day.
Is revenge bedtime procrastination real?
Yes, revenge bedtime procrastination is real. It’s also fairly common among people who feel overworked and stressed because their jobs or personal responsibilities don’t leave them enough time simply to enjoy their time off.
Is revenge bedtime procrastination linked to ADHD?
“Neurodivergent individuals such as those with ADHD, who have a reduced ability to organize and manage impulsivity, can demonstrate symptoms of sleep procrastination,” Neidich says.
Why do I purposely stay up late?
There are a variety of reasons why you may stay up later than you should if maintaining your physical and mental health is a priority for you. It may be because you work long hours, are stressed, or feel as though you have no other free time for yourself. You may be prone to procrastination in other areas besides putting off sleep.
As the term revenge bedtime procrastination suggests, you may feel that staying up late gives you a feeling that you’re “sticking it to” those (such as bosses) who are the reasons for making you work late, feel stressed, etc.
But bear in mind that if you regularly and repeatedly procrastinate bedtime, you will be the one who pays the price in terms of your health and well-being. So while procrastinating your bedtime may feel like “revenge,” it can backfire and harm you. There’s no “sweetness” in that kind of revenge.
If you need help revamping your bedtime routine, we’ve put together this list of relaxing activities that can get you in the mood for sleep.