What is Revenge Bedtime Procrastination?

Focus on the alarm clock in front of sleeping woman at night in

Do you often have a busy schedule during the day such that you run out of time to do the things you want? Have you ever tried to fix this by denying yourself sleep to make up for those activities? If so, then you've engaged in revenge bedtime procrastination.

So, what is revenge bedtime procrastination?

According to the National Sleep Foundation, revenge sleep procrastination is the decision to forgo sleep for leisure due to a lack of free time. It involves;

  • A delay in going to bed, which generally reduces your total free time
  • Awareness that delaying your bedtime could have negative consequence
  • No valid reason to delay going to sleep, such as an underlying medical condition

Although it can be tempting, cutting back on sleep can result in severe sleep deprivation. Fortunately, understanding revenge bedtime procrastination, including its causes, symptoms, and consequences, can help you know when you're engaging in it and how to overcome it.

What Causes Sleep Procrastination?

So, what causes bedtime procrastination? At its core, sleep procrastination stems from a lack of leisure time during the day.

Between running errands at work, raising children, checking in on friends, cooking, and all the other essential tasks of daily life, most people hardly find enough time to do things for pleasure.

It's worth noting that people who sacrifice sleep actually want to sleep, despite their behaviors. This disconnection is referred to as the intention-behavior gap. Here, the intention is to get quality sleep, but the behavior is the opposite. Many common causes of general procrastination and poor self-regulation, such as lack of motivation and negative emotions, can also lead to revenge sleep procrastination.

However, researchers stress that bedtime procrastination is unique and the exact link between it and general procrastination is unclear. Individuals who procrastinate in life are more likely to engage in sleep procrastination. Alternatively, it's possible that insufficient sleep due to this phenomenon can result in more general procrastination.

If you knowingly sideline sleep for more leisure time on a regular basis, you should consider other things you may be intentionally avoiding in your life. For instance, are you pushing off returning a call or paying your bills? What about that email you've been ignoring for weeks? All these things could be connected.

Signs of Sleep Procrastination

There's nothing that can be compared to a full night of rest and deep sleep. Healthy adults need about 7-9 hours of sleep each night. However, if you often struggle to fall asleep earlier or find yourself staying up later than you desire, you're probably not too familiar with the revitalizing feeling that comes with a good night's sleep.

And if you put off going to bed, you may be dealing with a condition known as sleep procrastination. Revenge bedtime procrastination can be sneaky, and it's sometimes a bit challenging to recognize its signs. Here are some common signs and symptoms that you may be falling victim to procrastination.

  • Going to sleep feels like a chore
  • You prefer zoning out with some screen a few hours before bed
  • You notice racing thoughts
  • You notice a background sense of feeling restless and irritable
  • You have an irregular sleep schedule
  • You feel like nighttime gives you the chance to finally do what you actually want

Note that sleep procrastination can vary greatly depending on what your daytime life looks like. For instance, if you're a mom with kids, you may simply want to steal some quiet time, and although you feel exhausted, you opt to stay up late and scroll silently on social media. Or perhaps your daytime life is highly structured, and all you need is some free time to watch an episode of your favorite series movie.

Overall, the activities involved in bedtime procrastination are things you enjoy doing. Whatever your preferred activity is, the result will be delayed sleep.

Who Is Most Affected?

Although anyone can engage in revenge bedtime procrastination, some people are more likely to delay going to bed than others.

A 2019 study conducted in Poland showed that women are more likely to be victims of revenge bedtime procrastination. This can be due to various factors, such as childcare responsibilities and household chores.

Another reason why women are twice as likely to sideline sleep is that they often report feelings of significant stress. This emotional and physical stress causes most women to procrastinate sleep for self-care and relaxation time.

People with stressful jobs might also be prone to sleep procrastination. It always starts small. You might find yourself staying up to catch up on your favorite TV show, and before you know it, minutes turn into hours, and you find yourself still up into the wee hours of the morning.

Other people who might be impacted by bedtime procrastination are night owls and individuals who generally procrastinate. Younger generation Z-ers and millennials are also prone to sleep procrastination. This may be due to stress and the rise of social media.

Consequences of Sleeping Late

Not getting enough sleep on occasion isn't likely to cause harm to your health, bedtime routine, or overall well-being. However, the problem comes in when staying up late becomes a regular habit.

Revenge bedtime procrastination can result in sleep deprivation. And without enough hours of sleep, your body and mind can't properly recharge, which has widespread adverse effects on health.

These include;

Hypertension

Getting less than 5 hours of sleep each night has been associated with an elevated instance of hypertension. Since sleep helps your body control hormones that cause stress, lack of it can significantly increase the effects of stress on your body. What's more, long-term sleep deprivation has been linked to higher heart rate, inflammation, and increased blood pressure, which put unnecessary strain on the heart.

Weight Gain & Obesity

Rapid weight gain is one of the major effects of continual sleep problems. A lack of sleep is linked to high amounts of a stress hormone known as cortisol, which often contributes to poor nutritional habits and emotional eating. Long-term sleep deprivation can also cause the stomach to release ghrelin, a hormone that can make you feel more hungry. This means you'll end up eating more often hence leading to weight gain.

Over time, sleep deprivation can affect your body's eating habits and metabolism. For instance, tiredness often leads to overindulgence and unhealthy cravings, accompanied by decreased physical activity. And research has shown that those who feel unrested are likely to settle for foods rich in sugar and carbohydrates. This eventually leads to weight gain and obesity.

Decreased Fertility

Aside from lowering libido, lack of sufficient sleep can have a devastating effect on those trying to conceive. Remember, the same part of your brain that controls the internal clock also regulates the production of reproductive hormones. So, getting less than 5-7 hours of sleep each day can lower testosterone levels, thus making conception even more difficult.

Faulty Brain Function

It's pretty normal to experience fatigue, mental fog, and lack of focus after one unrestful night. However, when your brain doesn't rest enough over an extensive period, mental faculties can decrease drastically. Adequate sleep is necessary for you to feel sharp and focused, but it also affects your problem-solving skills and ability to control your emotions and make decisions. That's why most sleep-deprived individuals have issues with balance and reflexes, making them prone to injure themselves.

Other effects of long-term sleep deprivation due to sleep procrastination include;

  • Diabetes
  • Memory loss
  • Psychiatric disorders
  • Immune system deficiency
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Heart attack and stroke

With sleep procrastination, the impact of sleep deprivation on your health may even worsen. Sleep deprivation has been associated with reduced impulse control and self-regulation, meaning revenge bedtime procrastination may become part of a negative cycle of insufficient sleep and poor overall health.

How to Manage Bedtime Procrastination

A lot of advice around sleep procrastination focuses on improving your sleep hygiene, such as avoiding screens at night and not exercising too close to sleep time. Although developing good sleep hygiene is vital for overall well-being, the root cause of procrastination is the lack of free time.

These tips can help you fall asleep faster.

Assess Your Schedule

Since a tight schedule is often the cause of sleep procrastination, take a look at your daily demands. Consider cutting out things that aren't crucial or eating up much of your time.

As you cut unwanted activities out of your schedule, replace them with time to indulge in activities you love. Note that this may not be easy, especially for professionals and parents who hardly get time to step away from their responsibilities.

One effective way of dealing with this is planning some "alone time" just as you would anything else. Schedule and prioritize time for yourself, then find someone to take over while you refresh and enjoy your break.

Make Attainable and Realistic Goals

Part of ensuring you get time for yourself involves making reasonably sized goals. For instance, if you're worried about hitting deadlines and finding more time to achieve your targets, start small. And as you carry out your daily routine, ensure you give yourself at least 10 to 25 minutes breaks to make you more productive.

Change Your Sleep Habits

Establishing quality sleep habits can help you improve the amount and overall quality of sleep you get. Some of the things you can do to reset your sleep routine include;

  • Setting a consistent sleep schedule. Having a consistent wake-time and bedtime makes it much easier for your body systems to adjust to your desired sleeping schedule. This means that you should strive to go to bed and get up at a consistent time every day.
  • Wake up earlier. Getting up earlier can prompt you to sleep early, too, because it will typically make you tired and ready to go to bed earlier.
  • Minimize napping during the day. Napping can make it quite hard to sleep at your desired time. That's why it's wise to avoid napping or minimize the number of naps you take each day and restrict them to short periods that are earlier than your sleep time.

Make Your Bedroom a Haven

Refrain from using electronic devices at least one hour before bedtime. It's pretty evident that if your electronic gadgets are the root cause of your bedtime procrastination, removing them will solve the bulk of the problem.

Aside from making your room an electronics-free zone, you should create a nourishing and supportive sleep space. This involves;

  • Ensuring your bed, pillows, and blanket feel comfortable to you
  • Keeping the temperature relatively cool
  • Ensuring your bedroom isn't too loud or bright
  • Eliminating distractions and temptations

Separating work and sleep is vital for your brain to draw boundaries and respect them. The moment it doesn't know the difference between your leisure space and workspace, the mental association you have between your bed and sleep is gone.

Closing Thoughts

Revenge bedtime procrastination can be a hard habit to break. Luckily, reassessing how you spend your time and improving your sleep habits can help you overcome this behavior.

However, if you continue waking up feeling groggy and it's interfering with your normal routine, it might be time to get medical advice. Your sleep specialist can help you cope with stress, set boundaries in your life, and find free time for activities you enjoy.

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