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What is revenge bedtime procrastination? Are you sacrificing sleep to reclaim lost leisure time?

What is revenge bedtime procrastination? Are you sacrificing sleep to reclaim lost leisure time?

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 late to get it comes with a price. When daily life robs much-earned R&R, some people start revenge procrastinating. 

Is Revenge Bedtime Procrastination Real? Why Do I Purposely Stay Up Late?

Revenge bedtime procrastination, also known as revenge procrastination and revenge sleep 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 people we care about. 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.

Revenge Bedtime Procrastination Symptoms

If you’re wondering whether you might be revenge procrastinating, but you’re not sure if you’re just a night owl or you really are staying up late for other reasons, you’re in luck. There are a number of signs that can tell you whether you’re staying up late to get back at your busy days or just burning the midnight oil. Some examples include: 

  • Feeling overwhelmed or stressed 
  • Low mood 
  • Irritability 
  • Fatigue or tiredness 
  • Poor concentration 
  • Poor appetite
  • Poor memory
  • High blood pressure
  • Weakened immunity

These may seem like innocuous problems by themselves, but symptoms of revenge procrastination can sneak up on you. They might start with getting easily frustrated and forgetting what you were doing, but in the long-run, it can leave you feeling mentally and physically exhausted, depressed, and angry. 

Revenge procrastination usually feels good in the moment—who doesn’t like a few minutes or hours to themselves at night? But long-term, the lack of sleep it causes can seriously hinder your daily functioning.

What Is Revenge Bedtime Procrastination A Symptom Of? Revenge Bedtime Procrastination Psychology

Revenge procrastination can be associated with a number of mental health conditions, such as depression, anxiety, compulsive disorders, ADHD, and stress.

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?

Revenge procrastination often appeals to people who have the least amount of available time to themselves throughout the day, such as those with high-stress jobs, people who work long hours, or parents that can’t seem to find enough time in the day. This lack of time can feel frustrating and draining, and can quickly lead to burnout. By getting some time back at the end of the day, it might feel like a way to get some energy back and release some of the irritation they could be feeling about the situation, though it only does so in the short-term.

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.

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Is Staying Up Late A Symptom Of Depression?

People with depression often experience disturbances in their sleep patterns such as struggling to fall and stay asleep. However, revenge procrastination can also be a symptom of depression, though it won’t be the only symptom if that is the case.

It can also cause your depression to get worse, since it’s causing a lack of sleep and is often associated with immense stress. If you think your revenge procrastination could be connected to depression, contact your medical provider or a mental health provider to discuss your symptoms.

Is Revenge Bedtime Procrastination Linked To ADHD?

Revenge bedtime procrastination can also be linked to ADHD. Symptoms of revenge procrastination are similar to those of ADHD (i.e. difficulty concentrating, fatigue, and irritability) which could cause the two to feed off of each other and make the other worse. For example, feeling tired due to ADHD or revenge procrastination can affect one’s ability to concentrate, which can exacerbate one’s ADHD symptoms and make focusing even more difficult.

Revenge Bedtime Procrastination Cure: 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: 

1. 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.  

2. 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. 

3. 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. 

4. 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. 

5. 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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Tamiqua Jackson, PMHNPBoard-Certified Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner
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Tamiqua Jackson is a Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP) and Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) in the states of North Carolina and Tennessee. Tamiqua has over 8 years of experience in advanced practice. She enjoys working with patients who may be experiencing depression, anxiety, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), stress, sleep disorders, and other mental health issues that may affect everyday life. Tamiqua is compassionate and serves as a patient advocate.

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Theresa Lupcho, LPCLicensed Professional Counselor
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Theresa Lupcho is a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) with a passion for providing the utmost quality of services to individuals and couples struggling with relationship issues, depression, anxiety, abuse, ADHD, stress, family conflict, life transitions, grief, and more.

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Hannah DeWittMental Health Writer

Hannah is a Junior Copywriter at Thriveworks. She received her bachelor’s degree in English: Creative Writing with a minor in Spanish from Seattle Pacific University. Previously, Hannah has worked in copywriting positions in the car insurance and trucking sectors doing blog-style and journalistic writing and editing.

We only use authoritative, trusted, and current sources in our articles. Read our editorial policy to learn more about our efforts to deliver factual, trustworthy information.

    1. Barroso, A., & Brown, A. (2021, May 25). Gender pay gap in U.S. held steady in 2020. Pew Research Center. Retrieved September 30, 2021, from https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2021/05/25/gender-pay-gap-facts/
    2. Herzog-Krzywoszanska, R. (2019, September 18). Bedtime Procrastination, Sleep-Related Behaviors, and Demographic Factors in an Online Survey on a Polish Sample. Frontiers. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnins.2019.00963/full
    3. Sarigiannidis, I., Grillon, C., Ernst, M., Roiser, J. P., & Robinson, O. J. (2020). Anxiety makes time pass quicker while fear has no effect. Cognition197, 104116. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cognition.2019.104116
    4. Sheehy, K., Noureen, A., Khaliq, A., Dhingra, K., Husain, N., Pontin, E., Cawley, R., & Taylor, P. (2019, November). An examination of the relationship between shame, guilt and self-harm: A systematic review and meta-analysis. ScienceDirect. Retrieved September 30, 2021, from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0272735819302910
    5. Suni, E. (2022, March 11). How To Determine Poor Sleep Quality. Sleep Foundation. Retrieved February 7, 2023, from https://www.sleepfoundation.org/sleep-hygiene/how-to-determine-poor-quality-sleep

We update our content on a regular basis to ensure it reflects the most up-to-date, relevant, and valuable information. When we make a significant change, we summarize the updates and list the date on which they occurred. Read our editorial policy to learn more.

  • Originally published on 10/01/21

    Author: Jason Crosby

  • Updated on 02/07/23

    Author: Hannah DeWitt

    Reviewer: Theresa Welsh, LPC

    Changes: Worked with a Thriveworks psychiatric nurse practitioner to rewrite the article, adding new information about symptoms of revenge procrastination and motivators behind revenge procrastination; included additional sections about the relationship between ADHD/depression and revenge procrastination; article was clinically reviewed to double confirm accuracy and enhance value.

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