• Revenge procrastination (also known as revenge bedtime procrastination) happens when we deprive ourselves of sleep in order to stay up to enjoy our hobbies, movies, games, and social apps. 
  • It’s an easy habit to get sucked into, and women may be more likely to start revenge procrastinating than men.
  • An off-kilter work-life balance seems to play a role in revenge procrastination, based on current research, with women reporting that they’re staying up late to decompress from their workday. 
  • Though it’s not officially recognized as a mental health condition, learning how to fix revenge procrastination habits means that we need to recognize the signs as they occur. 
  • By adjusting our daily routine with tactics like better managing our time and before-bed habits, we can start cutting back on revenge procrastinating, and getting our much-deserved rest.  

Late-night crusaders, we salute you. We know the joys of bingeing, scrolling, and fridge-raiding during the witching hours of the evening. There’s nothing wrong with winning back some downtime for ourselves, but staying up too late to get it comes with a price. When daily life robs much-earned R&R, some people start revenge procrastinating. 

Revenge procrastination occurs when we short ourselves on sleep in order to cash in on our downtime. It can start small; maybe an extra half hour before bed responding to messages, notifications, or just doomscrolling through piles of content. There are also those nights we sacrifice our sleep to catch up with those deemed most worthy. That quick 20-minute call somehow turns into two hours of talking (and certainly not sleeping). 

And our hobbies, which lay neglected as we bustle through our 9-5, can be hard to put down in the evenings. But when we’re constantly revenge procrastinating to chase enjoyment, our mental health can start to slip. To stop revenge procrastinating at night, we need to examine why we’re running out of time during our normal waking hours to do the things we enjoy. 

Interestingly, women may be more likely to cheat themselves out of much-needed rest than men. But regardless of who we are, it’s important not to erode our sleep schedules in order to cash in on relaxation time. Whether it’s our jobs, home life, or simply a lack of time management that’s eating up our downtime, understanding how to fix revenge procrastination means restructuring our day to make time for ourselves once evening rolls around.

Skipping Out on Sleep Because You Hate Work?

A 2019 Polish study found that women are more likely to engage in revenge procrastination than men. The researchers also noted that women have a 40% higher risk of developing insomnia than men, which makes their findings all the more significant. One significant factor in the study was work: Many women were staying up late to try and decompress from their workday. 

Though our workplaces can often seem mundane, stereotypes and antiquated gender roles may lie hidden. Women are being represented more broadly in the workforce than ever before, but they still make less than men, about $0.84 of every dollar earned by the average white male, according to 2020 data from a Pew Research Center analysis. Women are more likely to face harassment, glass ceilings, and professional mansplaining when they go on to use their degrees in the workforce. Work can be stressful enough, without all of that added pressure. 

While there’s no way to know exactly how many of us are revenge procrastinating, it certainly sounds like a tempting escape from the cyclical workweek or class schedule. Going to sleep on time might feel like defeat, considering we’ll need to face another obligation fueled-day: one that’s followed by another evening which may not have the time we need to relax. 

From an outside perspective, it certainly sounds like a negative headspace. But is it much different from what many of us currently feel on a weekly basis?

How to Fix Revenge Bedtime Procrastination

You’re not going to find revenge bedtime procrastination in the DSM-5, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not a real problem with potentially serious effects. It’s up to you to know whether you’re revenge procrastinating. If you’re interested in how to fix revenge bedtime procrastination, consider whether: 

  • You’d rather relax for as long as possible than have to think about work, sleep, or any other obligations: This is classic revenge procrastination. When evening hits you, and the couch lock is setting in, it’s normal to want to put off tomorrow’s worries and obligations. And if you’re not finding enough time in your normal day to relax, it’s even harder to resist staying up longer.
    Instead: Critically evaluate whether you’re structuring your day productively. A 2021 study found that practicing time management strategies at work (visualizing schedule, chunking time, prioritizing tasks) significantly reduced anxiety during the workday. It may also help to remain conscious of your mood throughout the week; some research shows that anxiety makes time appear to pass by more quickly.
  • You’re doomscrolling: If you’re addicted to spilled tea on social media, or simply enjoy being hooked into negative news headlines, it’s possible that doomscrolling is a habit that’s feeding into your revenge procrastination tendencies. Doomscrolling can be a guilty pleasure method to satisfy our morbid curiosity surrounding disheartening, disaster-related headlines, but it can cause news fatigue and other negative mental health effects.
    Instead: Try turning off your electronics about 30 minutes before bed, as advised by the Sleep Foundation. Doing so can reduce the harmful effects of blue light on your sleeping pattern, and the emotional drainage of doomscrolling. Instead of meandering through your Twitter or Insta feed, try getting a few pages further into that new book, relaxing podcast, or strike up an evening conversation with your partner or housemate.
  • You feel guilty about not going to bed, but are trying to rationalize staying awake: Don’t try to make a bargain with yourself—chances are it’s not a deal to make. Psychological research has demonstrated that when we try to justify lies, it may lead to more destructive consequences and behavior. Rationalizing something that you know doesn’t benefit you may also harm your mental health once you start feeling guilty for making poor decisions, as well.
    Instead: Use a growth mindset to fix your revenge procrastination habits without becoming discouraged. If you’re currently finding yourself revenge procrastinating, it’s possible that you’ve allowed it to become a habit. But don’t be too hard on yourself; a paper published in 2020 found that people who successfully form new habits don’t need to have unbreakable self-restraint or control—the key is to not give up. Using a growth mindset, failure becomes more manageable and is viewed as a healthy, natural part of progress.
  • You tell yourself it’s okay to risk being sleep-deprived because you never have enough time to enjoy yourself: While this is a valid argument, the world isn’t fair. Black and white logic will always leave you holding the short end of the stick. Save yourself the heartache; no job is worth sacrificing your health over. Despite what bedtime revenge procrastination might appear to do, shorting yourself on sleep will only make matters worse.
    Instead: Prioritize regular, sufficient sleep (7-9 hours/night for adults) each night for your own benefit. Whatever the purpose of staying up might be, sleep deprivation will only leave you in a worse mental state. If you’re wanting to fix your revenge bedtime procrastination habits, getting enough rest is crucial.
  • You don’t care about how being sleep-deprived could affect work, your social life, or mental health: This is known as “anhedonia”, or a greatly reduced ability to feel pleasure. It’s a common symptom of depression, and if you’re experiencing anhedonia, it’s a warning sign that your mental health is in need of professional assistance.
    Instead: Talk to a mental health professional. Don’t run from your emotions, or enable yourself to become further entrenched in your numbness. Even if you’re not depressed, allowing yourself to check out of your day-to-day life isn’t healthy.

Reshape Your Daily Routine

Pulling the plug on revenge procrastination won’t happen overnight—in fact, restructuring your day and evening routine is an essential part of getting past this self-destructive habit. Despite feeling like we’re going to enjoy ourselves by staying up late to relax, the truth is that our mental health and bodies need to rest. And if your workplace, romantic life, or technology habits make you feel like you need to sleep-deprive yourself to find time to relax, then that’s a clear sign that something is off. 

Reshaping our day is the safest way to get the most out of our leisure time. While it’s easy to get swept up and taken out of the present moment as we move through our work or class schedule, remaining conscious of time (in a healthy way) helps to cut back on revenge procrastinating tendencies. Our mental health requires consistent 7-9-hour periods of rest each evening—staying up late to enjoy your downtime only creates a temporary high. 

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