Have you ever stayed up later than you wanted to, just because it was your only chance to do what you wanted? You might have fallen victim to "revenge bedtime procrastination." Read on to learn all about it.
The lingering reality of COVID-19 means so many decisions we can make are completely out of our control. Yet, we are consistently in a place where we feel we should have control, our home, and there is a disconnect. I often hear people say they feel that even though they are working from home, they are working longer hours and are busier. Our attention is stretched. On top of working from home and schooling from home, we also have everything else we have to take care of at home.
Like many others, I began to find myself in a pattern of going to bed slightly later than I should. The idea of an alarm clock in my home is needless as our kids wake us with ample time to get routines started in the morning. But often would find myself scrolling through Facebook and Instagram for longer than usual. Even getting back into playing random games on my phone I hadn’t touched in months. I thought I was just being less responsible about my time until a client of mine mentioned this behavior in themselves and told me it had a name: Revenge Bedtime Procrastination.
I didn’t even need to look this up to know that I had fallen into this habit myself. Upon my own research, I learned there is a psychology behind this idea. This concept comes from the Chinese term ‘bàofùxìng áoyè’ and reflects the intense work demands many young professionals face and the desire to regain control of some piece of their time. The term first gained popularity in 2018 but is seeing a big resurgence as people continue to look for control during a time in history where it feels like that is the last thing we possess.
You may read this and begin thinking of how you have spent your last few evenings. Are you stuck on Instagram or playing Candy Crush? Maybe watching a few extra episodes of whatever people are talking about on Facebook? Don’t get me wrong, a few late-night indulgences here and there are harmless. Even fun. Maybe, even good for you. The problem that Revenge Bedtime Procrastination brings is that the prolonged habit will pay a toll on your physical, mental, and emotional health.
Sleep is essential to good health. So when we lack sleep, it can become a problem. If you think you may be forming the habits I'm writing about here, do a simple assessment of yourself. Look at your calendar and try to mark how many days in the last week or two you've stayed up later than you needed doing something not work-related. Continue to track this for another week or so. Make notes of what you are doing instead of going to bed. Sometimes habits that also encompass an element of impulse have the characteristic of losing track of time during the activity. Five minutes on TikTok can suddenly become an hour or two before you realize it.
In addition to how you're spending your time procrastinating sleep, track for a week or so how you're eating, exercising, and mood. How do you feel the next day? If those habits take a toll and you're noticing more depressed or anxious moods in yourself, it might be time to start taking action to build better habits.
We procrastinate to have a feeling of control. It can also increase our anxiety. To some extent, slightly elevated anxiety can benefit us. Like when you're writing an article about procrastination that you have been putting off for some time, but now trying to submit the article before a particular date has allowed for increased focus and clarity to complete the task (yes, this is me). This is a way small doses of anxiety can help some people perform better. However, prolonged pressure of this kind around deadlines, work, bills, and more can be problematic.
When this term gained popularity, some self-diagnosed participants said they chose to engage in this behavior because of the social benefits. That intense work schedules had made connecting with friends challenging, so staying up later to do so felt like a worthy cause. An escape.
While revenge may sound like a more intense word to use in something that feels like a pleasant escape, when your daytime has consumed so much of yourself, revenge might be just right. Bedtime may seem less important.
Whether you are intentionally procrastinating for enjoyment or you have found yourself slipping into a time warp, it's never too late to adjust sleep habits. Set goals for yourself of times to be in bed, turn off your phone and be ready to turn your mind off. Consider what is stressful at work and if this behavior is really helping that or exasperating it.
If work is particularly stressful and you're struggling to cope, inquire about your company's EAP program. See if you can get some short-term therapeutic assistance to help you build a better plan to manage. If sleep is the real issue versus anxiety, ask for a referral to a sleep doctor. Yes, sleep is so important. There are doctors who revolve their whole practice around it.
Developing better habits and routines doesn't mean you never get to connect with your friends when you want or that your binge-watching days are over. Those things can be good for you, like all things, at healthy levels. If you know you have busier weeks ahead, plan your sleep routines around that. It may take a few tries, but in the end, you'll find what is best for you.