Working Late Has Made Us All Revenge Bedtime Procrastinators. Here’s How We Can Stop It.

“Nothing good happens to any part of your body or brain when you’re sleep-deprived, both acutely and chronically,” Dr. Dasgupta explains. “So that’s what we worry about when people are doing this revenge bedtime procrastination.”

What can you do about bedtime procrastination and revenge bedtime procrastination?

If reading this makes you roll your eyes, and you’re already planning your 3 A.M. snack, we get it. Finding time to yourself is difficult, and the last year has broken a lot of our boundaries. Sometimes you have to seek vengeance on your bedtime until you can figure out something more sustainable—no judgment. But if you want to change your revenge habits or bedtime procrastination in general, there are a few things you can do:

1. If you’re still working from home, create a commute.

The name of the game is to establish boundaries so that you won’t need to reclaim your time after midnight. Dr. Romanoff suggests you start your day with a commute activity—even if it’s just a walk around the block. “It will recalibrate your mind and prepare you for the workday,” she explains. Dr. Romanoff suggests you do this at the end of the day, too, “Shut down your computer and head out the door for a walk. Don’t turn on the TV,” she says. “This will help you unwind from the day and assist with the transition from work to living space.”

2. Recognize that you can’t accomplish everything in a day.

Your procrastination habits likely stem from trying to cram all of your responsibilities into 24 hours. By the time you’ve done everything you possibly can, it’s often late in the evening, and you’re wired. Editing your to-do list as much as possible can increase the chances of not needing to unwind for hours at 11 P.M. When in doubt, try to remember that you can’t do it all in one day.

3. Find nourishing nighttime activities.

If you absolutely must keep your procrastination hours, then consider making them as restful as possible. Try swapping Netflix for a book or subbing a glass of wine for something that doesn’t impact your sleep (alcohol might help you doze off, but it can disrupt your REM sleep and leave you tired in the morning, SELF previously reported). If the goal is to use this time to relax and unwind, Dr. Dasgupta says to make sure it’s an activity that healthily checks those boxes.

4. Set a bedtime alarm.

If time gets away from you each night before you notice it’s 2 A.M., try setting an alarm clock. Just like your alarm clock tells you when it’s time to wake up, a gentle chime (or obnoxious siren) can tell you it’s time to get ready for bed. Yes, bedtime procrastination (and its cousin revenge bedtime procrastination) implies that you know you’re up too late, but a reminder might help encourage you a little.

5. Give yourself a chance to fall asleep before you reach for your phone.

While Dr. Dasgupta doesn’t want you staring at the clock waiting for sleep, he does recommend giving yourself some time to drift off. But here’s the kicker: If, after about 15-20 minutes, you don’t find yourself getting sleepier, don’t reach for your phone or turn on the TV in bed. Instead, Dr. Dasgupta suggests getting up and moving into a different room until you feel more tired. “Just staying in bed awake is not the way to go,” he explains. “Leave the bed and do things that are non-stimulating in dim light.” Then (after an activity like reading, some gentle stretches, or your favorite meditation app), try and head back to bed.

6. Consider talking to a therapist.

Even though bedtime procrastination and revenge bedtime procrastination aren’t forms of insomnia, sleep deprivation can have some pretty harmful effects. To that end, Dr. Romanoff suggests exploring cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia. “The goal of CBT for insomnia is to identify and alter beliefs that affect your ability to sleep,” Dr. Romanoff explains. “You will work to manage or explore alternatives to the negative thinking and anxiety [relevant] to revenge bedtime procrastination.” A therapist might help you understand why you’re procrastinating, and they can suggest habits that can encourage sleep.

Ultimately, revenge bedtime procrastination (or bedtime procrastination in general) isn’t the best for your overall wellbeing, but the last year hasn’t been great for wellbeing either. As you try to figure out what works best for you, don’t shame yourself for seeking revenge. Even though the downsides might outweigh the reward, “the autonomy to spend time in a way that folks know is not ‘good for them’ has a rebellious component,” Dr. Romanoff says. Often, staying up a little later to hang out and do nothing can feel like you’re exerting a little control over your life, which is helpful when you’re anxious or feeling uncertain. Just try to remember, as you rage against responsibilities, sleep is actually your friend.


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