Bedtime Procrastination: What Is It?
Bedtime Procrastination

Bedtime procrastination is exactly what it sounds like, procrastinating going to bed. You can procrastinate by either waiting to get into bed in general or by waiting to fall asleep once you’re already in bed. The phenomenon has also been dubbed “revenge bedtime procrastination” as many people find themselves staying up past their bedtime in an effort to regain a sense of control over their day. While it’s not a healthy habit, it has become more prevalent as of late and the long-term effects of doing so needs to be addressed.

What is Revenge Bedtime Procrastination?

When a day has been dictated by a work schedule or other obligations, many will stay up in an effort to get the leisure time they didn’t get throughout the day. The revenge aspect of it comes from a Chinese sentiment of being frustrated by going through a long and stressful day only to have little time leftover for personal use. The sentiment has gained notoriety online with those across the globe sharing similar frustrations with having little to no free time. 

This phenomenon is unusual in nature as it is an intentional reduction in sleep. While most people want to get the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep a night, there is a gap between their wants and their behavior that has left many scratching their heads trying to understand it. While there is no concrete evidence as to why this occurs, one explanation is a lack of self-regulation and self-control. The running theory suggests that since self-control is already at its lowest in the evening the toll of a stressful day depletes it even further leaving us with little self-control before bed hence the bedtime procrastination. Another theory suggests that those with the “night owl” gene are more prone to bedtime procrastination. As of now, there is no concrete evidence to suggest that either theory is more correct. 

The Effects of Bedtime Procrastination

The effects of procrastinating falling asleep at night are not pretty. While the effects of sleep deprivation are well documented, perhaps the idea of going to bed “a little late” doesn’t seem like it would do much, if any, damage. Regardless, sleep deprivation can impair cognitive functions such as thinking, memory, and decision making. This can negatively affect your performance throughout the day as well as jeopardize your own safety in the case of drowsy driving. Sleep deprivation also makes you more susceptible to cardiovascular issues and metabolic disorders such as diabetes. This can affect adolescents more severely since they are in greater need of more sleep per night than the average adult to sustain brain development. With adolescents spending the most time on their phones throughout the day, it’s not an unfair assumption that they would be more inclined to stay up on their phone as opposed to going to bed on time each night.  

How Do I Stop?

It can seem unfair spending the majority of your day working or fulfilling obligations you would rather not, so the temptation to regain some of the free time you feel like you lost in the time leading up to bed is strong. Sometimes it requires a great deal of control to resist the urge to procrastinate going to bed, but there are methods you can try to incrementally make improvements. 

For one, our devices are likely the most tempting thing keeping us awake at night considering many of us use them as our morning alarm. While it sounds inconvenient to make the switch to a traditional alarm clock, it could be necessary if you find yourself unable to put your phone down in a never-ending doom scroll before bed. Making the switch to an alarm clock means you can then leave your phone behind in the den or by your keys for the following morning. The same goes for other devices such as tablets and computers that can provide too much mental stimulation to be conducive to sleep. 

If that proves to be an unworkable situation, a personal favorite of mine is to trick the brain into thinking that you’re already procrastinating bedtime. If your optimal bedtime is 10pm, then it could be worthwhile to get into bed at 9:30pm or even as early as 9pm to allow yourself that half hour or an hour of unregulated “procrastination” all while maintaining your sleep schedule.

Key Takeaways

Bedtime procrastination, or revenge bedtime procrastination, can turn into a vicious cycle of staying up to counteract a busy day and subsequently not being rested enough to properly handle the next busy day. Whether it’s due to a lack of self control or an intrinsic “night owl” gene that prevents us from going to bed at a proper hour, many have found themselves making up for lost time in the evenings to the detriment of their sleep and overall health. While it may feel like there are simply not enough hours in the day, the long-term effects of sleep deprivation simply are not worth the extra hour or two of screen time or other leisurely activities we often choose over sleep. 

It is not an easy feat to completely overhaul your current sleep and wake routine, so give yourself some grace and go about things incrementally. Still allowing yourself some time to goof off on your phone but with a timer can be an excellent way of starting to wean yourself off of your before bed screen time. Incremental progress is better than none at all so long as progress is being made in general.

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