A girl in yellow headphones laying on her couch, illuminated by her laptop. Behind her a big windows. She may be staying up too late and experiencing revenge bedtime procrastination.

Revenge Bedtime Procrastination: Are You Sabotaging Yourself?

by Rebecca Norris

You may have seen a new phrase circulating social media this week: Revenge Bedtime Procrastination. While most of us are clear on what each word means individually, when paired together, it gets a little foggy—so allow us to paint a picture for you. Have you ever felt too busy throughout the day to spend any time on yourself, only to then stay up extra late in an attempt to still give yourself a little TLC? That, friends, is the concept of revenge bedtime procrastination at work. 

To further clarify the trendy new terminology, we chatted with Charlottesville Neurology and Sleep Medicine president, Dr. W. Christopher Winter. Check out what he has to say on the topic, below. 

What is revenge bedtime procrastination?

The term might be a tad confusing but according to Winter, who is the author of The Sleep Solution: Why Your Sleep Is Broken and How to Fix It, it’s meaning isn’t. 

“Theoretically, you are getting revenge against anyone (boss, busy family, etc.) who is keeping you from having some down time for yourself,” he explains. “It's essentially me-time that is taken from your sleep time.” 

Who is most likely to experience revenge bedtime procrastination?

Anyone who works long hours and/or manages a heavy load of responsibilities—whether work-, school-, or family-related—is likely to experience revenge bedtime procrastination. While these people are the most likely to stay up late in hopes of getting even an ounce of down-time for themselves, Winter admits that people who aren’t particularly organized with their time, as well as those who are better able to cope with sleep deprivation, may also find themselves battling bedtime procrastination. Though, in those instances, the only revenge is against themselves.

How to Avoid Bedtime Procrastination

While staying up late might not seem like a bad idea, by the next day, you might think otherwise. And, if you regularly engage in revenge bedtime procrastination, then you could begin to experience extreme fatigue and even burnout. Because of this, Winter recommends avoiding bedtime procrastination if at all possible. The best way to do so is to work regular hours (think: 9-to-5 or 8-to-6; or only a few 12-hour shifts (as is often the case for first responders and doctors) a week), and to make time for yourself in your time off. 

“Unfortunately, when a mortgage needs to be paid, it needs to be paid,” Winter says, noting that that simple reality leads to many people neglecting their own sleep needs in an effort to create some semblance of a life outside of work. With this in mind, he considers the solution to have two parts. 

First, he says that one must understand and believe that sleep is essential and should not be sacrificed. “It is a short-term activity that has serious long term consequences,” he explains. In other words, just because you can stay up late and go without sleep does not mean you should. 

Second, time management. 

“Wanting to have time to catch up on The Bachelor or watch the latest episode of Wandavision is okay...normal even,” he says. “We should all have time to engage in activities that are relaxing, frivolous, indulgent, and restorative.” That said, he believes that we—as in everyone—need to protect our seven to eight hours of sleep a night like national park land. In order to do so, time management is key.  Start with scheduling your bedtime and then break up how you want to spend your off-work hours. While sleep might not seem like the most enjoyable way to spend your hours off, Winter says it’s a must. 

“Prioritizing sleep makes the rest of our lives more efficient,” he explains. “In other words, sure, you may spend two hours more in bed, but that might make you twice as efficient in your work during the day… more focused, less mistakes. This will balance out the time you need for your evening procrastination.”

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Rebecca Norris