What Is Revenge Bedtime Procrastination & How Do You Overcome It?

It’s a serious thing.

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revenge bedtime procrastination

When it comes to habits that sabotage sleep quality, a not-so-little issue known as revenge bedtime procrastination tops the list. This is when you delay going to sleep, even if you're tired and know you'll likely regret it the following day, to do something you enjoy, such as watching a couple of episodes of your favorite Netflix show.

In the short term, revenge bedtime procrastination gives us that dose of joy you’re craving, and may not seem like a big deal. But, in the long term, it can lead to many consequences, including sleep deprivation, says Shelby Harris, Psy.D., a clinical psychologist and sleep specialist in New York and author of The Women's Guide to Overcoming Insomnia. "We become less effective in our daily lives, spinning our wheels emotionally and mentally, often have less tolerance for frustration, and our memory/ability to concentrate suffers," she says. "And with sleep deprivation can come a higher risk of depression, anxiety, cardiovascular issues, weight gain, diabetes — the list goes on and on."

So, why exactly does one sabotage their sleep in this way? According to Harris, a busy, stress-filled day-to-day routine is the biggest cause. As a result, you feel like you have to steal back some of the night to carve out some me time to decompress. Social media, she adds, is another cause as it's easy to get sucked in before bedtime.

To be clear, revenge bedtime procrastination is not to be confused with Sunday scaries, which is the dread and anxiety that comes from knowing you have to work the next morning. The spirit of the two are different. "Revenge bedtime procrastination is more of 'I don't want to go to bed because I have so much that I want to do for myself and I just want some peace and quiet' instead of 'I'm stalling bed because I know tomorrow will come sooner,'" Harris explains.


For Lee Mayer, founder and CEO of Havenly, an interior design service and e-commerce platform, having her hands full with a newborn baby at home tends to cause bedtime procrastination. "Sometimes time really flies, and before I realize it, it's late at night, and we're rushing to get ourselves into bed," she says.

The drive to be productive can also keep you up at night — literally. "Admittedly, much of my procrastination is due to trying to check more tasks off my to-do list," says Isa Watson, the founder and CEO of Squad, an audio-based social app designed to help people deepen friendships. Staying up late, though, results in her feeling groggy the next morning, having less energy, and adopting a more negative mindset. "When I am well-rested, I wake up feeling really positive about the outlook of my day, the week, and feel excited about what's on my docket to accomplish," she says. "However, sleep-deprived, I become more negative, pessimistic, and agitated."

How To Overcome Revenge Bedtime Procrastination

Create A Bedtime Routine

Harris says that having a bedtime routine is one of the best ways to combat revenge bedtime procrastination because it gives you time to decompress before sleep. To achieve this, she recommends setting a timer on your phone to remind you when it's time to shut everything down and begin your routine.

As for what an ideal bedtime routine entails, it depends on the person. Watson, for instance, sticks to a ritual in which she is in bed by 10:30 p.m. and asleep by 11 p.m., allowing her to get her optimum six to eight hours of sleep to feel her most productive. Leading up to her bedtime she does a few key things, including putting away her phone and computer, playing with her dog for 10 minutes, drinking a cup of chamomile tea, and doing her nighttime skin care routine.

Mayer, too, spends time with her dog during an evening walk to physically unwind and does her skin care routine at the same time each night to mentally switch into bedtime mode. The key, she says, is consistency. "I've conditioned my mind a bit to start winding down and easing into a more calm and quiet space at a reasonable hour each night," she says. "It's taken some intentional effort and practice on my part."

Avoid Temptations

Avoiding temptations can also help. "Turn off [the] autoplay feature on your streaming services so when it finishes a show, you have to make a conscious decision of 'I'm choosing sleep or TV' — not just getting sucked into the next episode automatically," Harris says. Mayer puts this temptation-free tip into action by keeping her phone in another room at night to avoid reaching for it.


Remember Your “Why”

On days when you're tempted to stay up past your bedtime, Harris says it's helpful to tap into your "why." She recommends writing down why you want to prioritize sleep, such as: to be more patient with your family, to help you think quicker, or to aid in workout recovery. Keep that note where you can see it to remind you to stick to your intention and avoid bedtime procrastination.

Don't Be Hard On Yourself

While getting to bed at a reasonable time each night is ideal, the reality is that despite our efforts, sometimes it doesn't happen, and that's OK. "I'd be lying if I said this was easy," Mayer says of sticking to her bedtime rituals, adding that she's known to occasionally marathon one too many episodes of a new show at night. Still, she avoids beating herself up over it and instead just focuses on trying to get to bed early the following night.

Watson echoes this advice of not being hard on yourself and says setting an alarm to let her know when it's time to stop working at night and putting things in perspective helps her shift out of the bedtime procrastination pattern. "One thing I've had to remind myself of is that I'm not saving lives. I do not deliver babies. I am not an emergency surgeon," she says. "As such, if I'm behind on something, it can generally wait until the next day. I have learned to give myself grace. I will not make every single deadline, and I am OK with that."

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