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If you’ve ever ended a busy day by carving out some leisure time at the expense of your sleep, then you’ve experienced “revenge bedtime procrastination”.
Journalist Daphne K. Lee describes it as “a phenomenon in which people who don’t have much control over their daytime life refuse to sleep early in order to regain some sense of freedom during late night hours.”
Simply put, it’s when people get revenge on their busy day by stealing free time from their sleep.
Researchers from the University of Minho and the Central University of Chile said there are three typical behaviours in someone experiencing revenge bedtime procrastination.
Going to bed late is not inherently procrastination. Maybe you have chores to do, maybe you like to work at night, or maybe you know you can sleep in the next day. It becomes procrastination if sleeping late isn’t intended or planned.
Humans are victims of circumstance. Sometimes life happens and we can’t go to bed when we planned. However, sometimes we don’t have a valid reason and impulsively ruin our sleep. At that point, there’s an issue.
Revenge bedtime procrastination involves knowing and acknowledging that your actions will result in negative consequences. People experiencing this feel guilt, but do it anyway.
Making revenge bedtime procrastination a habit can lead to chronic sleep deprivation and bring along its mental, physical, and emotional issues, such as exhaustion, increased irritability, poor decision making, weakened memory, lack of motivation, reduced impulse control, and even depression.
Ness Labs and Sleep Foundation recommend these two techniques for preventing revenge sleep procrastination - which are also great techniques for getting quality sleep in general:
Creating a routine around sleep and making it a daily habit will make you less likely to be impulsive at night. This includes maintaining a consistent bedtime and wake-up time every day of the week (even if you don’t have work), stopping the use of electronics at least 30 minutes before bed (ideally longer), and creating a good sleep environment.
The best sleep routines also include a relaxation method before bed, such as reading a book, meditating, or stretching.
Avoid eating at least 2 hours (ideally 3) before bed and drinking coffee or alcohol late in the day. This stops you from disrupting your sleep and entering the vicious cycle of revenge bedtime procrastination.
Meal prepping, where you batch cook your meals for the week ahead of time, is also a great way to prevent yourself from using dinner as an excuse to stay up late after a busy day.
Since the root of revenge bedtime procrastination is the desire for leisure time at the end of a busy day, I also suggest regaining control of your time.
If you’re not planning and/or scheduling your time at some level, then you risk letting the day sweep you along - which could leave you with no free time.
At a minimum, I would start with a to-do list. But to get even better results I would categorize each task by priority and at what time it should be worked on. If you commit to this type of planning and do it effectively, you should be able to carve out at least 3 hours of free time per day without sacrificing quality sleep.
A man who dares to waste one hour of time has not discovered the value of life - Charles Darwin
Life is extremely fragile - at any moment we could pass.
Life is extremely precious - we only have one.
Life is extremely short - we only live for a handful of years.
With this in mind, it seems foolish to waste even one hour. Someone on their deathbed would give anything for time back. Yet I’m sure many of us can throw hours away without thinking twice.