Sacrificing sleep for self-care or other activities can have short- and long-term health impacts. Here’s how revenge bedtime procrastination affects quality sleep and how to kick the habit.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than one-third of people in the United States don’t get enough sleep. Among the (many) reasons we’re sleep deprived is a little thing called revenge bedtime procrastination. Although you might be unfamiliar with the phrase, you’ve likely participated countless times.
The term “bedtime procrastination” was introduced by a 2014 study that describes the idea as delaying bedtime for no apparent reason, knowing that it may reduce sleep quality and duration. Revenge bedtime procrastination takes the concept a step further and refers to postponing sleep to stay up late and do leisure activities you couldn’t participate in during the day due to a hectic schedule.
The term was coined thanks to a viral 2020 tweet by New York-based journalist Daphne K. Lee, who describes 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.”
For example, instead of closing your eyes and dozing off after an activity-packed day, you pick up your phone, a tv remote, or a tablet to consume something enjoyable or entertaining because you had no time in the day for yourself. It makes sense. But participating in this habit can seriously hinder quality sleep and affect daily life and overall well-being.
Here’s how revenge bedtime procrastination impacts sleep and what you can do about it.
How does revenge bedtime procrastination impact sleep?
Revenge bedtime procrastination entails pushing off sleep for leisure, so chances are good you won’t end up getting the restful shuteye your body needs, which can lead to sleep deprivation.
In the short term, sleep deprivation is tied to emotional distress, high burnout levels, higher sensitivity to pain and stress, mood changes, lower energy levels, impaired thinking, poor judgment and decision-making, difficulty paying attention and staying alert, memory difficulties, increased susceptibility to cold and infections, and other health problems. In the long term, it may contribute to a person’s risk of developing chronic illnesses like hypertension, heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, weight-related problems, metabolic syndrome, and cancer.
Not only that, heightened arousal from engaging in leisure activities at bedtime may also make it harder to fall asleep once you finally decide to try and drift off and make it difficult to stay asleep, ultimately lowering sleep quality.
Plus, participating in revenge bedtime procrastination can totally throw your sleep schedule out of whack. Inconsistent sleep negatively impacts the circadian rhythm, or the body’s internal clock that regulates sleep-wake cycles and other internal bodily processes, which can increase a person’s risk of heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and mental health disorders.
How to manage revenge bedtime procrastination
The 2014 study introducing the concept of bedtime procrastination explained that this habit stems from a lack of mental energy, willpower, or self-control — which is highly probable at night — to go to bed instead of staying awake for leisure, in the case of revenge bedtime procrastination.
For many, it may be unproductive to rely on willpower to break the habit, but there are steps you can take to make it less likely that you’ll fall victim to revenge bedtime procrastination.
If you’re prone to procrastinating sleep, try making your bedroom inviting for deep slumber. Create the ultimate sleep sanctuary by keeping your bedroom cool, dark, quiet, clutter-free, and organized so the minute you step inside, you already picture yourself falling asleep and having a solid night’s rest.
A relaxing bedtime routine should involve wind-down activities that help prepare your body for comfortable, quality sleep. An hour before it’s time to hit the hay, take a warm bath, enjoy some light yoga or stretching, listen to calming music, meditate, journal, create the next day’s to-do list, and set your alarm clock. Whatever your bedtime routine, just make sure you keep the screens off.
Read more: How Hot Baths Improve Sleep
Whether it’s a good book, your phone, your tv, your computer, or any other thing that makes it tempting to sacrifice sleep, take it out of the bedroom at nighttime. This simple action will help keep you from feeling compelled to pick the item up and alleviate the need to entertain yourself once you’re in bed or thinking about going to sleep.
If you have the urge to spend some of your sleep time engaging in fun activities, you likely spend most of your day working, tackling errands, and juggling multiple do-tos. Take a broad look at your daily schedule; if it doesn’t include enough personal time, consider moving a few meetings or simply blocking off time to prioritize leisure and rest.
Read more: Tips for an Anxiety-Free Bedtime
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