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Signs of revenge bedtime procrastination

It’s 11 p.m. and you know you should go to sleep, but you can’t stop scrolling on social media or watching your favorite show. It’s your only chance to unwind after a busy day. If this scenario sounds familiar, it could be a sign of revenge bedtime procrastination.

What is revenge bedtime procrastination?

Revenge bedtime procrastination is a phrase translated from a Chinese expression and popularized by journalist Daphne K. Lee on Twitter.

“It essentially means staying up late at night to reclaim some of the freedoms we feel we’ve missed during the day due to work or other life circumstances,” says Paul Zolty, M.D., a Piedmont sleep medicine physician.

You may be more likely to skip sleep to reclaim some leisure time if you feel a lack of control over your life. This lack of control can be accentuated by the pandemic, caring for small children or an aging parent, work-related issues and relationship problems.

You may then take “revenge” against your life circumstances and try to regain a sense of control, but this behavior can ultimately backfire, says Dr. Zolty.

“It’s normal to binge-watch a program a little later than we should once or twice,” he says. “But if it starts to be an issue in your daily life—if you’re very tired in the morning, drowsy while driving or have concentration issues at work—then it’s likely a problem.”

Why it’s important to get enough sleep each night

“We sleep about a third of our lives, and there’s no question that multiple organs are affected by sleep,” says Dr. Zolty. “Lack of sleep has a huge impact on almost every aspect of our biological and physiological being.”

He says lack of sleep can affect your:

When you’re persistently sleep-deprived, he says, you may ultimately put your health, relationships and career at risk.

How to stop revenge bedtime procrastination

Determine why you skimp on sleep. Look at your daily and weekly schedule. Do you feel like you have enough time to yourself? Are you working too much? Do you need to say no to some social obligations? Once you know the reason—maybe you need more help with the kids or need to set boundaries with your boss—you can address those issues. 

Get support. Dr. Zolty recommends talking to a friend, colleague or counselor. They can help you strategize, set boundaries and establish goals for yourself.

Celebrate small wins. “A feeling of progress is an important factor in daily joy,” he says. “There are certain strategies, such as creating opportunities for small wins and achievable goals, that will give you a sense of agency during the day.”

Schedule time for fun. Dr. Zolty also suggests scheduling enjoyable activities in the early evening, so you don’t feel tempted to delay sleep later at night. Perhaps you can meet a friend for a yoga class, read a new novel, go for a walk with your partner or call a long-distance relative.

Practice good sleep hygiene. Try these tips for a good night’s sleep:

  • Establish a calming bedtime routine.

  • Eliminate screentime 30 to 60 minutes before bed.

  • Avoid heavy meals and intense workouts a few hours before bedtime.

  • Avoid caffeine, alcohol and stimulating medications.  

  • Avoid stressful conversations or media before bed.

  • Get a comfortable mattress, pillow and sheets; keep your room as dark, cool and quiet as possible; and use a white noise machine if you find it helpful.

  • Eat well, exercise and practice stress management techniques, like meditation, breathwork or journaling.

  • Don’t work or watch TV from your bed.

If you try these tips and still have trouble going to bed on time or getting enough sleep, talk to your health care provider. Need to make an appointment with a Piedmont physician? Save time, book online.

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