Don’t Fall Into the Trap of ‘Revenge Bedtime Procrastination’

Photo: DimaBerlin, Shutterstock
Photo: DimaBerlin, Shutterstock

The ongoing pandemic has changed so many aspects of our lives that it’s hard to feel in control over much. Everyday there’s a seemingly never-ending list of tasks that have to be done, so when you finally finish and have the chance to go to bed, that may be the first moment you’ve had to yourself all day. And while it would make sense to let ourselves peacefully drift off to sleep, it’s so tempting to try to cram one more thing in before bed, to allow us to feel like at least a (tiny) part of our day was ours.

Now, thanks to journalist and editor Daphne K. Lee, we have a name for it: “revenge bedtime procrastination.” She described this behaviour in a recent tweet:

Sound familiar? Here’s why we engage in revenge bedtime procrastination and how to stop it.

Why do we do this?

In short, everything feels so uncertain right now that naturally, we’re desperate to regain some (any!) aspect of control over our lives — even if it means losing precious sleep. Of course, it doesn’t take a global pandemic to spark revenge bedtime procrastination, but that’s certainly not helping matters right now. (We may be used to our lives feeling out of control, but it’s another level entirely when that sentiment extends to the entire planet.)

“When everything you do is about someone else’s needs, it might sometimes feel worth it to sacrifice some sleep,” Dr. Aimee Daramus, a clinical psychologist tells Well+Good. “The sound of silence is a beautiful thing. No boss, no kids, no interruptions.”

How can we stop?

Clearly, we all need as much sleep as possible right now, so this whole business of exacting revenge on our busy daytime selves by staying up late isn’t healthy. One way to deal with this is by taking some personal time during the day, rather than at night — even if that means carving out a few minutes here and there rather than having one significant chunk of time.

“Read a novel on your lunch break at work. Pick up prepared food more often,” Daramus tells Well+Good. “Maybe set one night a week to stay up by yourself when you can sleep in a little later and try to take more time for your own needs on the other days.”

But if you truly can’t catch a minute to yourself during the day, at least acknowledge your revenge bedtime procrastination for what it is, and give yourself a time limit. For example, you can watch one episode of “Living Single,” and then it’s lights out. That way, you still have this time to do something you actually want to do, but it’s built into your day and comes with an endpoint.

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