After a long day of work, followed by cooking, cleaning, or maybe even helping kids with homework or getting them ready for bed, you're exhausted, but craving "me"
time to unwind. So you start binging the newest Netflix guilty pleasure show and keep going for hours after you should have put on your pajamas and started your nighttime skincare routine. You know you'll be paying for it tomorrow, but you decide to sacrifice sleep for a few precious hours of free time before the grind begins again.
So why are we all seeking revenge and procrastinating sleep anyway — and how can you kick the habit? Read on read on for tips from sleep experts.
What Exactly Is Revenge Bedtime Procrastination and What Causes It?
So you most likely have heard of the social phenomenon one way or another — perhaps even during a late-night TikTok scroll (a contributor to the problem!). Simply put, "revenge bedtime procrastination is a tendency to put off sleep to focus on yourself at the end of the day and regain some sense of freedom," says Lauri Leadley, clinical sleep educator and president and founder of the Valley Sleep Center.
In other words, your lack of free time during the day causes you to want to stay up later at night and put your bedtime off, in order to achieve that "you" time, whether it's endlessly scrolling on your phone, staying up to binge your favorite show, playing video games, or reading, according to Dr. Breus.
"It's any activity that allows you to 'lose track of time,' which you can do before bed or while in bed," Dr. Breus tells us. It's also usually an unnecessary task and not a valid reason to stay up late, says Leadley.
Another way to think of revenge bedtime procrastination as "FOMO plus anxiety," says sleep expert Michael J. Breus, Ph.D., chief sleep advisor at Purple. Breus adds that it is not a form of insomnia and there is no way to formally diagnosis it.
"Things like poor self-discipline, overcommitting, not creating a schedule, or sticking to healthy habits can all cause us to procrastinate sleep," adds Leadley.
What Are the Dangers of Revenge Bedtime Procrastination?
Revenge bedtime procrastination can have a number of negative effects. The pretty obvious impact is getting less sleep than your body needs. Plus, on top of that, if you're procrastinating sleep with something that requires a screen, that blue light that the screen omits actually inhibits your body's production of melatonin which can disrupt your sleep, says Dr. Breus. In other words, it's a double whammy.
After a while, continuous poor sleep can add up and lead to sleep deprivation, which can have serious "physical, cognitive, and emotional consequences," Dr. Breus says. For example, those who suffer from chronic sleep deprivation are more likely to have health problems including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, depression, anxiety, ADHD-like symptoms, and even dementia.
How Can You End Your Revenge Bedtime Procrastination?
If all of this sounds familiar (I sure know it does to me!) don't fret because there are ways to end your bad habit while still getting that much-needed "me" time. It all starts during the day with carving out time for breaks so you don't feel you need to catch up at night, Dr. Breus says.
"If social media is important to you, give yourself a set time in your schedule to look at it, rather than constantly reaching for the phone to scroll," he recommends. If your schedule allows, plan to take a short break for yourself during the day to scroll, play video games, or watch TV — or whatever your leisure activity of choice may be.
When bedtime comes, there are few practices to ensure you won't get caught up scrolling or binging causing you to stay up later. Give yourself an hour to "power down," says Leadley, during which you can prepare your body for sleep. Dr. Breus actually breaks his "power-down hour" into three different 20-minute segments. In the first 20 minutes, he says you should finish any tasks you need to accomplish, such as taking the trash out or walking the dog.
The next 20 minutes he suggests doing something relaxing, like reading a book or journaling. He notes it's also crucial to be in a comfortable, pressure-free position during this period, so that "your body's pressure points in your neck and back are supported." Something like an adjustable bed frame ($999; purple.com) can help ensure comfort for whatever pre-bed activity you're doing.
He says the final 20 minutes should be used for "personal hygiene," meaning washing your face, applying your skincare products, and brushing your teeth. But Dr. Breus and Leadley agree that a warm bath can also help prepare you for sleep.
At the end of the day (literally) it's all about making that time for yourself throughout the day, so you're not cramming it in and refusing sleep. Your body and mind will thank you when your head can just hit the pillow at a reasonable time, without feeling robbed of free time.