What Is Revenge Bedtime Procrastination?

Revenge bedtime procrastination is when people stay up late to reclaim the freedom and control they don't have in their day.

If you've ever found yourself putting off your bedtime—perhaps by scrolling through social media or reading a book to the end instead of shutting your eyes as soon as your head hits the pillow—you may be experiencing a phenomenon called "revenge bedtime procrastination." Here's what you should know about this sleep disorder, including why it happens, how it harms your health, and ways to stop it.

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What Is Revenge Bedtime Procrastination?

The refusal to shut your eyes when you know you should is a psychological phenomenon called "revenge bedtime procrastination." One of the first uses of the term "bedtime procrastination" appeared in a study published in 2014 in Frontiers in Psychology. With the addition of "revenge," the term started appearing on the internet in China in 2016.

In 2020, writer Daphne K. Lee introduced revenge bedtime procrastination to English speakers. Lee defined the term on Twitter as "a phenomenon in which people who don't have much control over their daytime life refuse to sleep early in order to regain some sense of freedom during late night hours."

The phrase's "revenge" part sets it apart from any other instance of failing to go to bed at an intended time, Terry Cralle, RN, a certified sleep expert with Better Sleep Council, told Health

Revenge bedtime procrastination is "a failing to go to bed at an intended time in order to claim some much-needed 'me time,'" explained Cralle.

What Causes Revenge Bedtime Procrastination?

Between working or going to school, exercising, keeping up with friends, or caring for children, "me time" is valuable. Especially at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the line between work and home life seemed blurry, with working and going to school in the comfort of your home.

"Work responsibilities have grown and taken the space that used to exist for commutes, lunch breaks, and moments for co-worker connections," Sabrina Romanoff, PsyD, a clinical psychologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York, told Health. "Without this buffer, life would comprise of work and sleep."

Revenge bedtime procrastination is a way to take back part of your day for self-indulgent, low-demand activities, like mindlessly watching Instagram stories.

The Health Toll of Revenge Bedtime Procrastination

Putting off your bedtime isn't as harmless as it sounds. Sleep is a fundamental, preprogrammed survival skill in humans, Abhinav Singh, MD, a sleep specialist and medical director of the Indiana Sleep Center, told Health

"People look at sleep like it's for the brain only—like, if I just shut my eyes, I'll wake up refreshed—not realizing that it's a head-to-toe thing," said Singh.

In fact, a lack of sleep increases the risk of the following health conditions:

  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Chronic pain
  • Depression and anxiety
  • High blood pressure
  • Obesity
  • Type 2 diabetes

However, a weak immune system is one of the most significant impacts of a lack of sleep. For example, you're more likely to come down with the common cold if you consistently get less than six hours of sleep nightly, noted Dr. Singh.

Also, getting adequate sleep could be crucial to vaccine effectiveness. A 2020 study found that people who slept less before getting a flu shot developed fewer antibodies from the vaccine than those who slept longer.

"Chronically sleeping less than six hours [nightly] gives you almost a three to five times higher likelihood of mortality in the next five years," said Dr. Singh. "I get it, wanting that extra time to catch up, but you pay a price for that."

How To Stop Revenge Bedtime Procrastination

Some people expect to fall asleep when their heads hit the pillow. However, sleep is a process. 

"Think of [sleep] like a flight. When your flight has a 10 p.m. departure, you don't get to the airport at 10 p.m. You're there at 9 p.m. or 9:30 p.m.," suggested Dr. Singh. Instead of resisting your bedtime when it rolls around, prepare for it. 

Have a Routine

A bedtime routine allows you to welcome sleep instead of trying to force it. Specifically, having a routine helps your brain wind down and prepare for sleep.

"I have a four-step routine: shower, journal, read, breathe," noted Dr. Singh. Creating a similar routine for yourself "gives you time to wind down and start to slow your brain down a bit."

Having a consistent routine in which you wind down with calming activities can help alleviate anxiety. Sometimes, anxious thoughts can heighten and keep you up at night, increasing the risk of insomnia. In contrast, implementing a routine can help combat those anxious thoughts.

Create a Calming Sleep Environment

Your sleep environment is important, as well. Reserve your bed for sleep and sex only, making it a sacred place your brain immediately associates with rest. Then, at night, eliminate loud noises, bright lights, and electronics as much as possible.

The more time you spend in bed awake, the less likely you'll be able to fall asleep when you want to. For example, if you work from home, try recreating your former work setting in your home office or living room as much as possible during work hours, suggested Romanoff.

"Was work often a few degrees colder? Were the lights brighter? Transforming the space will help create differentiation between work, home, and bedtime activities," said Romanoff. 

Stay Consistent

It's important to stick to the nightly routine you set.

"Set an alarm for a bedtime that provides you with sufficient shuteye every day of the week," suggested Cralle. "When we are fueled with sufficient sleep, our waking hours will be better, and we will likely have more time for me time because when we're functioning in a well-rested state, we are more efficient, accurate, focused, clear-headed, productive, motivated, energized, healthy, and happy."

Even the awareness of what you're doing and how harmful it can be long-term can help, noted Cralle: "The more we know about sleep, the more we will prioritize it."

A Quick Review

Revenge bedtime procrastination happens when you purposefully stay awake to decompress after a day of stressful activities. However, the phenomenon leads to a lack of sleep, harming your health. To stop procrastinating sleep, create a bedtime routine, have a calming sleep environment, and stay consistent. 

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Health.com uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. How does inadequate sleep affect health?.

  3. Ragnoli B, Pochetti P, Pignatti P, et al. Sleep deprivation, immune suppression and SARS-CoV-2 infectionInt J Environ Res Public Health. 2022;19(2):904. doi:10.3390/ijerph19020904

  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Sleep and the immune system.

  5. Prather AA, Pressman SD, Miller GE, et al. Temporal links between self-reported sleep and antibody responses to the influenza vaccineIntJ Behav Med. 2021;28(1):151-158. doi:10.1007/s12529-020-09879-4

  6. Sleep Foundation. How to build a better bedtime routine for adults.

  7. MedlinePlus. Healthy sleep.

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