Revenge Bedtime Procrastination: Why Your Brain Will Get Back at You If You Don't Let It Rest During the Day

  • If you find yourself struggling to fall asleep at night but still spend hours scrolling through social media, your brain might be seeking revenge.

  • People who don’t allocate free time in their daily schedules or have bad sleeping habits can be vulnerable to a specific kind of procrastination.

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Have you ever found yourself scrolling through social media late at night, even though you were sleepy and knew you needed to wake up early the next day? If so, you’re not alone. In fact, there’s a scientific name for that: “revenge bedtime procrastination.”

This type of procrastination is a psychological phenomenon. Back in 2014, researchers in the Netherlands shared the results of their studies in Frontiers in Psychology. As they described it, this is a phenomenon where people intentionally delay going to bed, sacrificing their rest time, for no apparent reason. People do this even though they know it’ll result in them feeling exhausted the following day.

Revenge Bedtime Procrastination: When Delaying Sleep Is Taken to the Extreme

The term “revenge bedtime procrastination” comes from its similarity to procrastination. You might be familiar with the concept. When we procrastinate, we delay tasks that we know we’ll have to do eventually, reducing the time we have to complete them. This can often lead to stress and mental anguish.

According to the Dutch researchers, this behavior is often linked to a lack of free time during the day. At night, when the day’s tasks have been completed, the brain may try to compensate by taking up sleep time to give the illusion of doing more than just working, studying, or doing household chores.

This is where the “revenge” term comes from. Your brain feels like it hasn’t had the chance to relax during the day, and so it takes control of your leisure time. It’s a kind of like your inner self's subconscious revenge for making it suffer.

Moreover, research from the Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing in Cleveland shows that not getting enough rest by staying up late has serious health consequences. Several studies have confirmed that not sleeping enough could lead to increased stress levels, lack of concentration, memory loss, and greater risk of cardiovascular diseases and Alzheimer’s, as well as increased exposure to mental illnesses.

We All Love Sleeping, Don’t We?

As we mentioned before, procrastination is a psychological phenomenon where we tend to put off tasks that we find unpleasant or uninteresting and instead engage in activities that bring us pleasure. This means that we replace the negative task with something positive, which makes us feel good.

However, sleep procrastination is a bit different because sleeping isn't seen as unpleasant. In fact, we all like to sleep, and we need it to function properly. This is why sleep procrastination is so intriguing to psychologists.

Staying up late to spend time with friends, go to social events, study, finish assignments, or do other work is not considered sleep procrastination because there’s a reason for using that time for another activity.

On the other hand, if you find yourself going through Instagram stories, watching one more episode of your favorite show, reading another chapter of a book, or playing the next level of your favorite game, that has no logical justification, and it can leave you feeling tired and drained the next day.

A 2022 study on The State of Sleep in America, conducted by Gallup, found that 33% of Americans reported inadequate sleep, while 70% of young adults under the age of 30 experienced sleep issues due to stress.

Stop Your Brain From Taking Revenge at Bedtime

Research has shown that individuals who tend to procrastinate in other areas of their lives, work demanding jobs, or suppress their desire to rest due to a busy schedule or too many obligations, are more likely to procrastinate at bedtime.

If you think you might be a bedtime procrastinator, experts recommend being intentional about your rest, setting realistic bedtime goals, and adopting new habits to improve sleep hygiene.

Additionally, it’s helpful to schedule leisure activities, sports, or simply give yourself time to do nothing, instead of organizing a frenetic schedule full of things to do without any time for yourself. Failure to take a break and relax during the day can lead to your brain taking revenge at night by preventing you from getting a good night’s sleep.

Image | SHVETS production via Pexels

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