Image: A woman in bed on her phone, revenge bedtime procrastination.

Revenge Bedtime Procrastination: Are You Doing It Too?

This article by Tatiana Azman was originally published on Mindvalley.

Have you ever worked so much during the day that you delay your bedtime? Instead of sleeping, you binge on the movies you’ve missed on Netflix, scroll through your social media, or catch up with people you haven’t talked to in a while? Well, there’s a name for that. And it’s called revenge bedtime procrastination.

Image: A woman in bed on her phone, revenge bedtime procrastination.
Source: Mindvalley

What’s the Story Behind “Revenge Bedtime Procrastination”?

The relatability of revenge bedtime procrastination gained traction around the world during the pandemic, thanks to social media. However, it’s not a new concept.

The idea of “bedtime procrastination” was introduced in a 2014 study by Utrecht University in the Netherlands. It’s defined as “failing to go to bed at the intended time, while no external circumstances prevent a person from doing so.

The “revenge” part is believed to be added in China, relating to their notorious 996 work life— from 9am to 9pm, six days a week.

The whole term — “revenge bedtime procrastination” — is a translation of an expression in Chinese. Twitter user @daphnekylee explains it 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 problem with that is you have to get up the next morning for work after procrastinating your bedtime the night before. And it’s a known fact that sleep deprivation can have quite the undesirable effect on your overall well-being.

How Does It Affect Your Health?

Image: A man in public slumped down in front of his computer, sleeping.
Source: Mindvalley

A 2021 study of the state of America’s sleep conducted by the Better Sleep Council finds “a growing percentage of Americans are battling poor sleep” — that’s 62% of the participants, in fact, which is a 6% rise since the first study in 2019.

The report also shows those who are poor sleepers say that they:

  • Don’t sleep enough
  • Struggle to fall asleep
  • Wake up frequently
  • Can’t go back to sleep after waking up

Granted, the pandemic played its part in increasing stress levels (there is research out there that shows this). And a side effect of that is an increase in screen time and alcohol consumption — behaviors that contribute to poor sleep habits.

So if you ever feel sluggish after a night with too little sleep, it probably doesn’t come as a surprise that lack of sleep can seriously impact how your brain and body functions.

Revenge bedtime procrastination and your brain

When your brain hasn’t been given enough time to recuperate, the neurons are overworked. They aren’t able to optimally perform when it comes to thinking, remembering, concentration, and even creativity.

Some of the impacts on your brain include:

  • Slowing down thinking and reaction time
  • Impairing memory
  • Affecting mood
  • The ability to adapt and thrive in uncertain or changing circumstances
  • The possibility of increasing mental health symptoms, like anxiety and depression

Researchers also believe that sleep helps “promote the removal of waste products from brain cells,” as an article on John Hopkins Medicine points out. Unfortunately, when these toxins aren’t flushed out, it may lead to neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s.

What’s more, if you’re the scroll-on-the-phone-in-bed type, your gadget is supporting your revenge bedtime procrastination. Studies have shown that phones, tablets, and computers (which emit blue light) can interfere with sleep by suppressing melatonin production, the hormone to help you feel tired and ready for sleep.

Sleep Foundation article states, “blue light can also reduce the amount of time you spend in slow-wave and rapid-eye movement (REM) sleep, two stages of the sleep cycle that are vital for cognitive functioning.

Revenge bedtime procrastination and your body

Image: A man up late at night playing video games.
Source: Mindvalley

When your body hasn’t had enough quality rest, it produces cortisol. And that particular stress hormone is known to be closely linked to heart attacks and heart diseases.

Other impacts on your body include:

  • Being prone to infections
  • Maintaining blood pressure, sugar levels, and inflammation
  • Gaining weight, which can cause a higher risk of type 2 diabetes
  • Affecting hormone production, including growth hormones and testosterone
  • Affecting the production of hormones that boost fertility

So, in this age of self-love, revenge less and sleep more.

What Can You Do About Revenge Bedtime Procrastination?

Several studies are showing that work is a major cause of stress amongst Americans. According to Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace: 2021 Report that captures how people are feeling about work and life in the past year, “U.S. and Canadian workforces saw the highest levels of daily stress globally.”

So what can you do about it?

#1: Begin with identifying your values

Values are our heart’s deepest desires — what Russ Harris, author of The Happiness Trapdefines as “how we want to be, what we want to stand for, and how we want to relate to the world around us.

Unfortunately, the trouble is, as focus and habit formation expert Nir Eyal points out, “we don’t make time for our values.” Instead, we tend to spend too much time on one area of our life (for most people, it’s work) at the expense of the others.

Nir adds, “given that work probably takes up more of your waking hours than any of the other domains, it’s even more important to ensure the time spent there is consistent with your values.”

#2: Set aside specific time for traction

First off, traction is “the actions that draw us towards what we want in life,” explains Nir. Now, the opposite of this is distraction. And the difference between the two depends on what you intend to do with your time.

For example, if your plan is to spend the first 30 minutes of your work day checking emails, then that’s traction. However, if you really need to focus on a big project, but instead, you end up spending that time cleaning out your inbox, that’s a distraction.

A significant part of Nir’s book, Indistractable: How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life, is about timeboxing — a well-researched technique to decide what you’re going to do and when you’re going to do it.

That includes scheduling a time for leaving the office and, of course, getting those much needed zzz’s.

#3: Commit to your schedule

Life isn’t predictable and things are bound to come up — a dinner invitation, a client meeting, a PTA meeting, or whatever the case may be. So, Nir suggests setting aside 15 minutes every week to reflect and refine your calendar by asking yourself these two questions:

  1. When in my schedule did I do what I said I would do and when did I get distracted?
  2. Are there changes I can make to my calendar that will give me the time I need to better express my values?

The first question requires you to reflect on the week before and understand what, when, and why you were distracted. The second question allows you to figure out what didn’t work so you can adjust accordingly moving forward.

The idea is to commit to a practice that improves your schedule over time by helping you know the difference between traction and distraction for every moment of the day,” explains Nir.

Awaken Your Indistractability

The internet never sleeps, but for the sake of your wellbeing, you definitely need to. By forming and practicing indistractable habits, like timeboxing, you’ll be able to set boundaries without feeling guilty.

  • Mindvalley

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Published: February 11, 2022

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