How To Tell If You're Suffering From Revenge Sleep Procrastination

It's more prevalent than you think.

If you’re someone who’s purposely putting off bedtime to scroll on your phone or watch TV, join the club – it’s a big one. “Revenge Sleep Procrastination” is a concept made popular on Twitter by New York Times journalist Daphne K. Lee. It refers to people who feel they don’t have much control over their daytime life, so they stay up late to take back a little freedom. 

The condition seems to be universal, especially now with more people working from home. Kathie Donovan is here with some insight on this tricky situation, and what the fixes are.

What is Revenge Sleep Procrastination?

Sleep procrastination was named by researchers at Utrecht University in the Netherlands. “Revenge” was added when the idea picked up steam on the Chinese internet. In China there are some illegal work practices called 996, where people work from 9:00am to 9:00pm six days a week. Even though this is a dramatic example, sleep procrastination can happen to anyone in any part of the world. Realistically, this condition should be called self-sabotage sleep procrastination… not very tweetable but it is the truth. The only person that suffers in this situation is the one not sleeping. It’s important to note that our intention to get a good night’s rest may not be aligned with our behavior and it’s behavior that’s really challenging to change. Sleep is a big topic for good reason. Many of us have wonky sleep patterns because of hormones and other physical concerns. Revenge Sleep Procrastination is different because there’s nothing preventing you from going to sleep except your desire to stretch out the day.

Who Does This Affect?

While we have our own rhythm when it comes to sleep, keep in mind what research tells us: about 40% of adults get approximately six hours of sleep a night. The optimum for most people is eight hours! Research points to stress, environment, work or school schedules for the shortfall, but that shortfall adds up over time.

The hard truth is that we all have the same 24 hours in a day. It’s what we do with the time that makes a difference. We’re also in front of screens more than ever and that addiction definitely contributes to sleep procrastination. With the blurred lines between work and home life, the underlying stress we’re all experiencing and the fact that our lifestyles have changed, it’s no wonder sleep is being impacted. Some people view sleep as a waste of time, so let’s set the record straight. Sleep is how we reset. It’s also when our brain gets a clean out; getting enough sleep impacts how we operate in our daily life. Any high-performance person will tell you that sleep is one of their secret superpowers and those who don’t sleep will pay for it eventually.

Who’s More Likely To Experience Revenge Sleep Procrastination?

High achievers, working parents, as well as students seem to be most susceptible. There’s also a suggestion that people who procrastinate in general, as well as those with self-regulation challenges are most likely to fall prey to this phenomenon. 

How Do We Prioritize Sleep?

It’s important to acknowledge the source of sleep procrastination. Is it stress, overwhelm or a feeling that if you don’t stay on top of everything 24/7, you’re not enough or doing enough? It can be all of the above, but now that we know the benefits of good sleep habits, we can start to make better choices.

Let’s start with FOMO, which many of us have, especially in regards to social media. If you’re in charge of your time and you’re doing what you want with it, you are missing out on nothing. You’re living your life by your rules and that’s pretty badass. A successful life is built on a solid foundation of core beliefs and values; if you haven’t figured out what those are yet, that’s work worth doing.

Especially now, when we’re in this Pandemic pause and a mental health crisis, more employers are accommodating because they want their employees to be present and clear headed. Perhaps it’s time to set a curfew on emails relating to work. If it’s social connection you’re after, make a plan with friends to connect online on a specific day at a specific time, so you’re booking a meeting with yourself for fun. Or how about this revolutionary idea…get up a little earlier to get some exercise or do some meditating, journaling or reading to set yourself up for a great day. Get some blue light glasses to limit exposure when you’re on your devices. And it goes without saying that we should be limiting how much time we’re on electronic devices.

Finally, it’s important to set boundaries in all of your relationships both personal and professional. Prioritize your 24 hours so that you can make the most of every day whether you’re asleep or awake.