What Is Revenge Bedtime Procrastination and How Do We Stop Doing It?

What Is Revenge Bedtime Procrastination and How Do We Stop Doing It?
Credit: 20th Century

With millions of people stuck in lockdown and working from home, it can feel near impossible to gain any sense of me-time when you’re still answering emails at 10 pm – this is where revenge bedtime procrastination comes in.

According to Dr Carmel Harrington, sleep expert and Managing Director of Sleep for Health, revenge bedtime procrastination is the practice of delaying your bedtime for some much needed ‘me time’.

What is revenge bedtime procrastination?

“You’re swapping sleep out for me time,” Dr Harrington told us. “And basically, people are thinking, ‘I’m sick and tired of it just being work, eat, sleep. I want work, eat, enjoyment, sleep.'”

Unfortunately, for many of us, lockdown and working from home has had a huge impact on this, as there’s no longer any distinction between work and home.

“Lockdown has hugely impacted this,” she added. “There’s no drop-dead time, you don’t close the office up at six o’clock and go home. It’s just ongoing all the time, and of course, people don’t have just that. They’re homeschooling, they’ve got their children, so the day’s very busy and often much more crowded than it used to be. You know, often people go out to work to get away from the home imperatives, and they can’t do that anymore.

“So, I think there comes a time when people just want to be alone. You know, ‘I just want to be on my own, I just want that half hour where I’m sitting here with no one else wanting anything from me.’ And I think Covid’s really influenced this idea of I’m going to stay up a little bit later, so that I can centre myself.”

Even before Covid hit, revenge bedtime procrastination was on the rise thanks to the hustle mentality we’ve been living with for some time now, and it’s been seriously negatively impacting our sleep.

“How we live today is very different to our grandparents. It’s 24/7, again, our office is anywhere. I often find myself doing work at seven o’clock at night – our grandparents couldn’t do that.

“So it does mean that there’s always something going on, and so you feel like you just don’t get that [alone time]. It really is important to have alone time and to detach yourself from the daily minutia, be that work or the stresses of raising a family or whatever it is. And so that time where you do centre yourself, let go of all those stresses is really quite important.”

Without that time to de-stress, Dr Harrington reveals that you end up in a cycle of stress and bad sleep where you’re stressed so you can’t sleep, which then stresses you out the following day, once again leading to bad sleep.

“It can impact our ability to sleep, because that detachment from the problems of the day actually reduces your levels of stress, and so it allows you to go to sleep more easily. And so that’s what people do, they might watch TV, but the trouble is they get caught up in it, they don’t do it for half an hour, they end up binge-watching some program till two o’clock in the morning. And that’s where the issues arise, it goes past stress being caused by overwork and too much activity to stress being caused from sleep deprivation.”

How to stop doing it

Dr Harrington stressed that “awareness is everything” when it comes to revenge bedtime procrastination. If you’re aware of what you’re doing you can tell yourself that you’ve got half an hour to spend relaxing. If that time is spent in front of a screen, limiting that time is very important.

“We really shouldn’t be using screens close to bedtime anyway,” she said, adding that it’s simply “not conducive to good sleep”.

So, if you know you’re someone who struggles with revenge bedtime procrastination, not using screens for so long is probably the most important tip. However, this can be difficult because as we get tired, we lose the ability to make good decisions. This is likely why you end up binge-watching TV shows late at night.

Plus, if you’re not getting the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep a night, you’re just making yourself less efficient during the day, once again kicking off a vicious cycle because you’re slower and making more mistakes and you begin to feel miserable or cranky.

Dr Harrington recommends rewarding yourself, but with discipline, “Having fun is also important, so you’ve got to have a balance between feeling like you’ve got something going on in your life and it’s not just eat, sleep, work. So what I do suggest is that, rather than stay up late every night, just do it once or twice a week and have something to look forward to.

“So, you know on Monday night you might think, ‘Okay, Wednesday is the night that I’m going to stay up for as long as I want to. I’m going to do what I’m going to want to do, I’m going to have fun, and I’m going to be tired the next day, but I only do it once or twice a week’.”

Another thing Dr Harrington recommends is separating your home and work life as much as you can if you work from home, so set up a separate space in your home for your work and keep it outside of the bedroom.

“Make sure that where you are working, is not where you are sleeping,” she said. “Have that physical detachment and that becomes a mental detachment as well so when you walk into that area you know this is my work time. And then when you walk into your bedroom or your sleeping space you think okay that’s great, I’m here to relax.”

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