You wake up with a start and frown as you listen to the blaring sound of your phone’s now annoying alarm tone on your nightstand. You check the time: it’s already 7 AM. You hit the snooze button a couple of times and remember how tired you were when you crawled into bed a mere three hours before. You should have gone to sleep, but you’d had a long day at work the day before, and you had decided to binge-watch Netflix and scroll through Twitter till 4 AM just to rebel against the depressing reality of your life. Your head is now pounding, your back hurts, and the thought of getting out of bed to face the day ahead seems impossible. This is revenge bedtime procrastination, and most of us have been there at one point or the other in our lives.
Revenge bedtime procrastination is a global problem that is beginning to grow rifer and more threatening. It is simply a practice where people deliberately stay up late to free up more time to engage in activities they enjoy because they spend their entire days working or attending unfulfilling tasks. The most crucial factor to note about bedtime revenge procrastination is that the people who engage in this highly toxic habit do not have convincing reasons. They decide to stay up late because they hate the fact that they are so busy doing things that they don’t enjoy during the day, so they want to find some time in any way possible to engage in activities they find pleasurable. The term ‘Revenge Bedtime Procrastination’ was coined in China after millennials started complaining about how they had to stay up late at night to regain some free time after the unbearable rigors of their daily lives.
The coronavirus pandemic shook the world to its foundations in 2020. This singular factor has increased global revenge bedtime procrastination levels.
People always thought they needed more time in their lives to enjoy the most beautiful and precious aspects of life. However, the worldwide lockdowns showed people that even when they spent their entire days at home, they could still end the day feeling unfulfilled and empty.
These feelings of emptiness and unfulfillment after long, lonely days of achieving nothing spurred people to stay up late into the night, desperate to achieve something tangible before they went to sleep. According to Dr. Rebecca Robillard of the University of Ottawa’s School of Psychology, this soon became a habit for a lot of people. In a research study led by Dr. Robillard in which 5525 Canadian adults were interviewed, researchers discovered that staying at home was having devastating effects on people’s sleep patterns and quality.
In 2014, a group of researchers led by Floor Kroese of the Utrecht University in the Netherlands conducted a study on the habit of deliberately delaying sleep, which is becoming more common in modern adults. In the survey conducted on 2400 people in the Netherlands, the researchers discovered that at least 53% of respondents engaged in revenge bedtime procrastination twice a week. Therefore, revenge bedtime procrastination is quite a common problem that requires prompt attention.
Why exactly do people engage in revenge bedtime procrastination? First, it is essential to note that sleep deprivation resulting from sickness or sleep disorders does not constitute revenge bedtime procrastination. This form of sleep deprivation is deliberate and entirely intentional.
People engage in this habit to find time to engage in activities they enjoy because their daytime schedules do not allow them to live a balanced and rewarding life.
One important reason behind revenge bedtime procrastination is demanding work schedules. We live in a fierce society where the current business and workplace’s constant demands are fueled by the unlimited connectivity technology provides. The average job is now twice as demanding as it used to be; therefore, stressful work environments remain a prime factor causing revenge bedtime procrastination for most individuals. They do not enjoy their daily life, and they are desperately seeking an escape. The darkness and stillness of the night with no work emails popping in, no chores to attend to, and no children to look after allows them to sit back with a bowl of popcorn or a container of ice cream and engage in activities that help them feel alive.
While some people use revenge bedtime procrastination as an avenue to relieve the stress of work, some people engage in it because they are addicted to certain unhealthy lifestyle habits. Watching too many movies, playing too many video games, and engaging in other compulsive practices may be reasons why people deliberately stay up at night instead of going to bed. In this case, the individuals involved may have the time to engage in these activities in healthy amounts during the day. However, due to their obsessive relationship with these activities, they may decide to stay up late just to get more time to enjoy themselves. This can lead to a destructive behavioral pattern that affects short-term well-being and long-term success.
Chronic procrastination may also be a key reason behind revenge bedtime procrastination. It is one thing to work in an extremely demanding working environment, and it is another to be an inefficient, time-wasting procrastinator. Procrastination is a far more common problem than most people realize. A UK study by Micro Biz Mag surveying 1000 adults shows that an average of 84% of adults procrastinates to some degree, and 1 in 5 people procrastinate every single day. Procrastinating from time to time means you are merely human. However, procrastinating every day to the extent that you have to lose sleep to cover up for the lost time is a terrible situation requiring prompt attention. Chronic procrastination can make it difficult for individuals to achieve their daily goals regularly, making it critical for them to stay up later than usual to accomplish those goals.
Constant consumption of caffeine late in the day may also contribute to increased occurrences of bedtime revenge procrastination. Stimulants like caffeine suppress the urge to go to sleep, making it more likely to choose binge-watching Netflix or scrolling through Twitter over turning off the lights and getting a good night’s rest. Continuously sleeping late on purpose for a long time can also affect the body’s natural sleep-wakefulness cycle known as the circadian rhythm. A circadian rhythm conditioned to encourage late nights and little sleep may have devastating effects on productivity and efficiency in the long-term.
One of the biggest enablers of bedtime revenge procrastination is the inability to muster the strength to carry out normal pre-bedtime activities. This, in itself, is a specific kind of procrastination. It is understandable that you’re stressed and probably a little grumpy when you come back from work. So, you probably grab dinner and lie down on your couch for a while. When it is time to go to bed, you realize that you have to do the dishes, iron your shirt for the next day, and freshen up before going to bed. The thought of carrying out those tasks may seem incredibly overwhelming, so you may just choose to postpone carrying out these tasks, effectively delaying your sleep in the process.
According to James Clear’s masterpiece, ‘Atomic Habits,’ whether you want to build a good habit or break a bad one, it is critical to understand the pathway leading up to the action you are trying to imbibe or eradicate. The action pathway consists of the cue, the craving, the response, and the reward. The cue is the signal that starts the process of engaging in a habit. For revenge bedtime procrastination, the cue is usually that feeling of helplessness, stress, and restriction that you feel when you come back from work after a long, hard day. You are angry as you discover that you haven’t had any time to do anything you enjoy for four days straight. Then, the craving follows. The craving is the desire for some excitement, thrill, a feeling of being in control. This desire spurs you to take action — which is usually the harmful act of watching Netflix, playing video games, or surfing aimlessly through the internet. The response elicits a reward in your brain’s cortex by releasing various hormones, the most potent being dopamine.
Therefore, to break this bad habit, you need to tackle it from the very roots. Understand the signals that prompt you to choose, stressing your body further over going to sleep, and address your response to the craving. Instead of settling in bed to watch that episode of that Netflix series, you can choose to turn on a soothing recording of sounds of nature that help you to meditate and fall asleep instead. Once you modify this response and it works once, modifying this response continuously in the future would be easier. You can reward yourself by choosing a particular time to watch your movies or play your video games after getting all your work done, on the condition that you do not deliberately delay your sleep throughout an entire week. ‘
Not getting enough sleep leads to lowered productivity and efficiency, fatigue, and poor memory. This is because sleep plays a vital role in mental clarity and cellular restoration. Research information from Harvard Medical School has shown that long-term sleep deprivation can translate to increased heart disease risks, obesity, diabetes, and infertility. These research studies have also shown that people who deliberately sleep less may be more predisposed to reduced general immunity, making them more likely to contract diseases.
To help you effectively curb the bad habit of revenge bedtime procrastination, here are seven key steps to take:
Sleep and wake at the same time every day
The body’s natural circadian rhythm conditions us to feel sleepy and wake up at the same times every day. By simply deliberately going to sleep and waking up at the same time every single day, you can harness the power of your circadian rhythm to help you feel more energized and productive every single day you wake up. This practice also encourages mental clarity and boosts long-term immunity.
Be deliberate about planning
Investing in being organized and appropriately managing your time is one of the most critical requirements for any successful individual. If you are not getting your tasks done in time or are doing them inefficiently, leading to more work time, study your schedule and find ways to optimize it. This can help you free up an extra hour or two every day, which can be used for relaxation, thereby preventing revenge bedtime procrastination. Using a specific pre-bedtime routine can also help your body get accustomed to certain activities that help you unwind and go to sleep more easily.
Eat appropriately before bedtime
Being hungry when you go to bed can make falling asleep more difficult. Feeling bloated and over-filled can also be a problem. It is, therefore, pertinent that you control how you eat in the evening. Ideally, dinner should be light and should be consumed three hours before bedtime. This prevents indigestion and encourages healthy absorption of food by the body. Also, make it a point of duty to stay away from stimulants such as alcohol and coffee just before bedtime. These substances impact your ability to fall asleep, leading to declines in productivity.
If you are trying to curb revenge bedtime procrastination, exercising in the evening, three to four hours before your bedtime, can be a great habit. Even light forms of exercise can help induce the secretion of the hormone cortisol, which encourages sound sleep and promotes tissue repair and restoration.
Optimize your bedroom for sound sleep
We sleep better in darker, silent rooms. According to novel research studies from the University College, London, humans tend to sleep better and achieve more restorative sleep levels in darker and quieter environments. Therefore, eradicate bright screens from your bedroom and ensure that your sleeping area is as quiet as possible. This will make it less likely for you to be distracted from going to bed and make you sleep better.
Explore ways to be more fulfilled and add a sense of satisfaction to your life
The key reason behind revenge bedtime procrastination for most people is the inability to find fulfillment in their daily lives. Therefore, if you face this problem, incorporating new fun and exciting activities into your life may be the way to go. Instead of focusing all your thoughts exclusively on your boring job or your annoying boss, you can direct your energies towards a new sport or a group hobby that allows you to explore different interests and meet new people. Imbibing activities that help you feel excited and satisfied in your life will help you feel more fulfilled generally and reduce bedtime revenge procrastination incidences.
It is quite common for people to reach certain stages in their professional life where they feel stuck. Perhaps as an individual, you have risen remarkably through the ranks at work, and now, you have to wait for someone to retire or leave a role for you to get the promotion that you deserve. Or you may be an entrepreneur whose business is on the decline with no solution in sight. These kinds of situations can breed long-term dissatisfaction, leading to revenge bedtime procrastination as a regular habit. Therefore, never allow yourself to stay too long in one position to the extent that you get bored and stuck in your life. Remain flexible, unlearn old irrelevant knowledge and imbibe newer and more relevant information. Learn from nature; old leaves have to wilt away for new, beautiful green ones to bloom. Never stop shedding old useless leaves because that’s the only way you can grow new ones.
Revenge bedtime procrastination may seem like a logical choice, but in reality, it is a destructive habit that only leads to long-term unhappiness and low work output. Therefore, you must make the conscious choice to optimize your schedule and plan your time better to ensure that you strike a balance between work and relaxation.
To help you live a healthier, happier, and more purpose-driven life, you can’t take any short-cuts. You need to actually figure out what you want, the kind of impact you want to make on this world, and then pursue that legacy relentlessly. Therefore, start your journey of self-introspection today. Challenge yourself to live a life of purpose, and every day you go to sleep, you will do so promptly and with a smile, because you know that your existence is truly making a difference.