Understanding Revenge Bedtime Procrastination and How to Overcome It

Understanding Revenge Bedtime Procrastination and How to Overcome It

By implementing effective strategies, you can break free from the grips of revenge bedtime procrastination. 

Imagine this: the day ends and you know it’s time to sleep. But something inside you rebels against the idea, urging you to stay awake just a little longer. This phenomenon is called revenge bedtime procrastination, a behavior that many people can relate to.

The origins of revenge bedtime procrastination

Revenge bedtime procrastination, derived from the Chinese term “bàofùxìng áoyè”, refers to the act of staying up late as a form of retaliation. The Sleep Foundation defines it as sacrificing sleep to enjoy personal time due to a hectic schedule devoid of free time. Although revenge bedtime procrastination may offer a tempting respite for those with demanding occupations, the pattern of late nights and early mornings leads to profound sleep deprivation. Diminishing sleep significantly negatively affects mental abilities and physical health. 

The term gained popularity through social media, primarily due to journalist Daphne K. Lee, whose tweet in 2020 sparked a viral phenomenon. In her words, revenge bedtime procrastination is when “people who don’t have much control over their daytime life refuse to sleep early to regain some sense of freedom during late-night hours.” Lee’s comment was inspired by Chinese workers who work long hours and sacrifice sleep as an act of defiance. In China, this behavior is commonly called retaliatory staying up late.

Blurred boundaries and increased workload

The phenomenon of revenge bedtime procrastination is closely intertwined with the challenges faced by hard-pressed millennials and zoomers. With ‌constant access to smartphones, video games and video streaming, these individuals, who often have demanding work schedules, perceive the end of the day as their only opportunity for personal time. The disruption caused by the pandemic further amplified this issue, as many had to endure prolonged and stressful work hours under unsettling conditions. 

The distinction between work and personal life has become blurred, with work responsibilities encroaching on time that used to be dedicated to commuting, lunch breaks and social interactions with colleagues. A clinical psychologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, Sabrina Romanoff, explains that this lack of separation means that life would essentially consist of work and sleep without any buffer in between. The absence of those moments for self-care and rejuvenation further contributes to the desire to reclaim some semblance of personal time, leading to behaviors like revenge bedtime procrastination.

Overcoming the problem

Now that we understand the reasons behind revenge bedtime procrastination, we must explore practical strategies to overcome this behavior and prioritize restorative sleep.

Set a consistent bedtime routine

Establish a regular sleep schedule by determining the time you need to wake up in the morning. Set a bedtime for sufficient sleep duration, typically around 7–9 hours for adults. According to a sleep medicine specialist at Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital, Dr. Kuljeet Gill, it’s important to approach the process of establishing a sleep schedule with patience and gradual adjustments. Rather than making sudden and extreme changes to your bedtime routine, she recommends slowly advancing your bedtime gradually, typically by 15 minutes each day.

This gradual approach allows your body to adapt to the new sleep schedule more easily without causing significant disruptions to your natural sleep-wake cycle. By incrementally shifting your bedtime, you allow your body to adjust and synchronize with the desired sleep-wake pattern.

Minimize phone screens in bed

Designate your bedroom as a sacred space for relaxation and sleep. Keep all electronic devices, especially smartphones, out of the bedroom or at least out of arm’s reach. This physical separation will help break the habit of reaching for your phone in bed.

Therapist Meg Josephson suggests charging your phone in another room and putting it away for at least an hour before bed. If possible, leaving your phone in another room overnight and using an actual alarm clock to wake up can further help create a healthy separation from your phone during sleep. By implementing these strategies, you can create a more restful sleep routine.

Turn off the ‌autoplay feature

Autoplay can majorly contribute to excessive screen time, as it automatically starts the next episode or video without your conscious decision to continue watching. By disabling autoplay, you regain control over your viewing habits and create a natural stopping point, allowing you to prioritize your sleep and maintain a consistent bedtime routine. 

Take a few moments to adjust the settings on your streaming service to disable autoplay and empower yourself to make intentional choices about your entertainment consumption. To disable Netflix autoplaying previews, sign in to Netflix via a web browser and access the “Manage Profiles” option. Choose the desired profile and toggle off the options for autoplaying previews while browsing and autoplaying the next episode in a series on all devices.

Sleep specialist Shelby Harris, a board-certified behavioral sleep medicine specialist in White Plains, New York, suggests making a conscious choice when tempted to watch another episode by telling yourself, “I am actively deciding to sacrifice sleep by watching another one.” This statement highlights the importance of recognizing the trade-off between indulging in entertainment and prioritizing your sleep.

Engage in relaxing activities

Engaging in relaxing activities before sleep is a valuable practice that can have a profound impact on your sleep quality and overall well-being. When you make time for relaxation before bed, you create a dedicated period to unwind, let go of the day’s stresses, and prepare your mind and body for a restful sleep.

As psychologist Helena Rempala from the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center recommends, replacing screen time with more beneficial alternatives can further enhance this process. For instance, instead of mindlessly scrolling through your phone or watching TV before bed, you can opt for screen-free activities such as reading a book, practicing meditation, or engaging in gentle stretching. By adopting these relaxation practices, you can create a calming atmosphere that aids in easing into sleep and breaking the cycle of delaying bedtime.

In conclusion, overcoming revenge bedtime procrastination requires self-awareness, effective time management, and prioritizing self-care and sleep. By implementing these strategies, we can break free from the detrimental cycle and create a healthier and more balanced lifestyle.

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