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Revenge Sleep Procrastination Is on the Rise

Revenge Sleep Procrastination Is on the Rise

The lesson learned in 2020 was that a pandemic has the power to affect nearly every aspect of our lives. Our social lives, physical activities, and travel plans were just a few of the victims. The COVID outbreak forced many students home to do distance learning and adults to pivot to working from home. But this unprecedented period has also disrupted our sleeping habits. In fact, all these changes are partially to blame for our sleeplessness.

While the number of people experiencing interrupted sleep or insomnia has risen since the start of the pandemic, sleep procrastination is different. Now, with the emergence of the term ‘revenge sleep procrastination,’ we’re also gaining some interesting insight into societal pressures and the need for greater work-life balance.

What Is Sleep Procrastination?

You may not know the name for it, but you will surely be familiar with the experience. Sleep procrastination is when people voluntarily lose sleep at night because they prefer to do something else. Regardless of tiredness, the time they should go to bed, or when they want to go to sleep, some stay up late doing other activities.

The term ‘bedtime procrastination’ was first coined by Dutch psychologists in 2014. In their study, the researchers found that people with lower levels of self-control were more likely to be this type of procrastinator. They described it as a choice to put off sleeping for no external reason or exigency.

Sleep procrastination is different from insomnia and other sleep disorders because the person generally feels tired, or knows that they should go to sleep, but chooses to stay awake. It’s also different from ‘night owls’ who feel more productive in the late hours of the day. Procrastinators aren’t working or engaging in productive activities at night, they are doing things that they enjoy.

Is Revenge Sleep Procrastination Real?

Yes, revenge sleep procrastination is definitely a real phenomenon that has gotten worse with the increasing use of technology, mobile devices, and also with the recent pandemic.

Why? Psychologists suggest that people are choosing to stay up late, with full knowledge that it is unhealthy and they will be fatigued the next day, in order to carve out personal time. For students who feel constantly busy with assignments and for adults who are continually occupied by work, childcare, and household chores, night may seem like the only time they have for themselves.

Motivations are varied. Some see it as stealing back precious “me-time” and consider it a form of self-care. Others simply feel that they are compensating themselves with leisure for time spent more dutifully.

For others still, it is a way to regain a sense of control over their life or show resistance through decreased work productivity. In this sense, procrastinators take revenge on the various factors that monopolize the majority of their time by doing activities that are not considered productive into the wee hours. They understand that their performance the next day may worsen with tiredness, but are happy to have stolen some personal time.

Why Is Revenge Sleep Procrastination a Growing Trend?

Revenge sleep procrastination seems to be coined by Chinese internet users and became a trending keyword at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. It gained popularity as more and more people around the world limited their activities outside of the home. Working and studying from home seems to have put even more pressure on people’s time.

Instead of resting up for the next day full of responsibilities, sleep procrastinators engage in a wide variety of activities including reading, surfing the net, watching television, and talking online with friends. It seems that swiping right or binging on Netflix during the late-night hours offers a sense of freedom – even if just the freedom of choice – in a moment of extreme restriction.

With the rise of lockdowns, quarantines, and WFH, boundaries between work and home have blurred. Emails, Zoom calls, and Slack messages now happen at all hours of the day and in all of the most private space within the home. For so many, long days at the office have pivoted to working where we live. Feeling like we are always at work has led to a growing need to carve out personal time in the day. This is especially true for parents and caretakers who feel they just cannot get a break. Sacrificing some shuteye may seem worth it.

During the pandemic, many have been unable to do their beloved social and leisure activities. This, combined with higher stress and never-ending work, has pushed some to the point of burnout. Instead, revenge sleep procrastination may seem like the best way to get much-desired downtime. Admittedly, there are no bosses, whiny kids, or interruptions in the middle of the night.

Why Is Taking Time for Yourself More Important than Ever?

It is human to require relaxation. Taking time to wind down and detach from stressors is critical to restoring energy, stabilizing mood, and sleeping soundly. Without the proper work-life balance, we are neither good at work nor good at home.

What is the Problem with Sleep Procrastination?

Procrastinators push their bedtime back, but the alarm will still go off in the morning. Sleeping in later is not usually an option, so sleep deprivation is the clear result. Sleep procrastination is not a healthy habit because rest is fundamental to mental and physical health.

In the long-term, a lack of sleep can wreak havoc on your immune system and the body’s natural ability to fight illnesses. It also causes memory difficulty, moodiness, and it is closely linked to diabetes, obesity, and a whole host of health problems.

How Can I Break the Sleep Procrastination Habit?

Personal time is precious, but so is sleep. Here are some tips to prioritize bedtime and get the valuable rest that your body and mind need.

  • Set a firm bedtime for yourself.
  • Decide on a reasonable amount of time to engage in the activity that often keeps you awake.
  • Consider making time for that leisure activity in another period of the day or weekend.
  • Structure your day and create boundaries that allow you to have downtime during the day.
  • Don’t binge – videos, social media, news – when you have limited free time.
  • Avoid activities that you find especially stimulating or ‘addictive.’
  • Keep mobile devices and computers out of the bedroom.

Quiz: Find out if you have insomnia.

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