What is Revenge Bedtime Procrastination and How to Stop It

Long before I discovered just how much I loved sleep, I would stay up late after a hard day at work just to try and squeeze in the ‘me time’ I hadn’t been able to get in the day. Little did I know that there’s actually a name for this and that many other people experience it too! When I discovered revenge bedtime procrastination, I knew that’s exactly what I had been going through and realised how much it was impacting my wellbeing. So, what exactly is it? Why do we do it? And how can we stop it?! Here’s everything you need to know about what the Chinese call “報復性熬夜” (revenge bedtime procrastination).

What is Revenge Bedtime Procrastination?

The term ‘bedtime procrastination’ was first discussed in a 2014 research article by the Department of Clinical Health and Psychology at Utrecht University. However, the term gained popularity when a viral tweet shared the Chinese phrase “報復性熬夜” (revenge bedtime procrastination) in 2020.

The word ‘revenge’ was added in Chinese to describe those who worked long days and then stayed up late to try and reclaim control of their time. As Daphne K. Lee described in her tweet, it’s “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.”

Effectively, if you put off going to sleep in order to get some of the free time you don’t have a chance for during the day, then you could be experiencing revenge sleep procrastination.

How Do I Know If It’s Revenge Bedtime Procrastination?

Not everyone who goes to bed late is experiencing bedtime procrastination and researchers have identified three key factors for it to be considered as such:

  • The delay in going to sleep must reduce your overall sleep time at night
  • There are no other valid reasons for staying up late (eg, the kids keeping you up or insomnia)
  • Those who experience revenge bedtime procrastination know that it might lead to negative consequences but still do it regardless

If you tick these three boxes then you’re a revenge bedtime procrastinator!

What Does It Look Like?

Revenge sleep procrastination can look different for everyone, but if you use late-night or early-morning hours to catch up on any kind of ‘me time’ then there’s a good chance you’re experiencing this phenomenon. 

Some examples include:

  • Staying up late to scroll your phone or binge-watch TV as it’s your only opportunity to get some downtime
  • Engaging in your hobbies late at night or first thing in the morning which delays your total sleep time
  • Staying up late just because you have had a hectic day with work, family or other responsibilities

Remember, one of the key factors is that you have to be aware that there may be negative consequences to not getting enough sleep but you still do it anyway.

Revenge bedtime procrastination

Who Experiences Revenge Bedtime Procrastination?

Anyone can experience bedtime procrastination and, as I mentioned before, it’s definitely something that I used to do a lot (before I realised how much I loved my sleep). Many of us will do this occasionally, but some people will find that this has become a recurrent issue.

Those who are most at risk of revenge bedtime procrastination include parents who don’t have a lot of time to themselves in the day, those with high-stress jobs or who work long hours, and those struggling with low mood or anxiety.

The more stress experienced in the day, the higher the chances of experiencing revenge sleep procrastination. Some studies have also shown that this phenomenon impacts women and students the most.

Events outside of our control, such as the pandemic, also gave rise to sleep issues with more and more people struggling to stay or fall asleep due to these stressors. As people started working from home, it also became harder to find ‘me time’ and so revenge bedtime procrastination became more common.

It’s worth noting, that some people are just night owls and will therefore be more prone to nighttime procrastination. Research shows that a combination of natural sleep patterns and a person’s self-control are big contributing factors.

The Consequences and Impacts

So, why does any of this matter? If you’re just scrolling your phone at bedtime, then what’s the harm in that? Whilst not getting enough sleep some of the time isn’t going to be harmful, those who constant engage in revenge bedtime procrastination may find their health and wellbeing suffering.

One of the biggest consequences of this becoming a habit is sleep deprivation which can cause issues such as:

  • Poor memory
  • High blood pressure
  • Mood swings
  • More prone to anxiety and depression symptoms
  • Difficulty making sound decisions
  • Poor physical performance
  • Increased risk for unintentional accidents or injuries

Sleep has such a huge impact on both our physical and mental health, and it’s something I preach all day long when I talk about Foundation One of our Five Foundations of Wellness: The Basics.

When we don’t get enough sleep we often fall into what I call the Cycle of (Un)Wellness. We wake up feeling groggy, we eat rubbish food and struggle to take care of ourselves, we find it easier to let stress impact us as we’re tired, and then all of this makes it harder to get to sleep again at night.

Getting enough sleep is vital for improving all aspects of our lives and revenge bedtime procrastination doesn’t allow us to do that!

How To Stop Revenge Bedtime Procrastination

So, how do we stop punishing ourselves and get enough sleep? And, importantly, stop sleep deprivation from taking over? Once you have recognised that this may be an issue, you can start putting the right steps in place to stop it. Here are some top tips to do just that:

Create A Good Bedtime Routine

If you find it hard to switch off and fall asleep, then you may want to take a look at your evening routine. A good nighttime routine can really help you get a good night’s sleep and reduce the chance of revenge bedtime procrastination from taking over. 

Read how to refine your bedtime routine here: How to create a good evening routine for better sleep

Schedule In ‘Me Time’

If a lack of free time is causing revenge sleep procrastination then scheduling in ‘me time’ is a must. Finding time for your wellbeing can be hard, especially if you work long days or have lots of responsibilities at home. 

I recorded this podcast episode ‘How to find time for your wellbeing’ to go through some more top tips. Pop in your headphones and give it a listen – but not just as a way of getting out of going to bed!

Sleep Helpers

There are so many useful products out there to help you get to sleep, from pillow sprays through to body lotions. I also like using things such as sleep affirmations, breath work and sleep stories. In fact, I use Charlie’s breath work for sleep and Andrew’s sleep stories on The Anti-Burnout Club platform regularly! Find the things that work for you and add them into your bedtime routine.

Address the stress

If you’re engaging in revenge bedtime procrastination because of underlying stress, then this is going to be the first thing to deal with. Even the best bedtime routine in the world isn’t going to help if you don’t deal with the stressors first.

This free burnout workshop and workbook is a great way to start and I also cover how to schedule in time for wellbeing in more detail too. 

Whatever your reasons for revenge bedtime procrastination, know that it can be solved and you don’t need to constantly wake up feeling tired or sleep-deprived. Good luck beating it and finally enjoy a good night’s sleep… It’s worth it!