Revenge bedtime procrastination:
Why we go to bed so late and what to do about it
You know the crime scene:
It’s late in the evening and you wanted to go to bed earlier tonight but you tell yourself:
“I’ll watch one more Youtube video/Netflix series episode, I’ll play just one more game, I want to read this one more thread on Reddit.”
Or you simply just scroll on your phone mindlessly until you doze off.
The reason doesn’t matter, you stay up late. Then either you have to wake up to be somewhere on time and you’re super tired, or you have nowhere to be and then you sleep until late morning.
In both cases, you regret it at least a little bit. You promise yourself tonight it’s gonna be different and you’re going to bed earlier.
Then you find yourself at 1 AM doing the same thing again.
This is often referred to as revenge bedtime procrastination:
going to bed way too late because you don't feel like facing the responsibilities of tomorrow. Are you also guilty of it?
Then read on!
Sleep is great. You know how good it feels when you wake up refreshed. No brain-fog, full of willpower, able to focus.
So why do we sabotage ourselves like that?
We think there are deeper causes why we do that.
People usually give it out tips and tricks on how to go to bed earlier. However, if you don’t fix the real causes of why you do that, it’s a fool’s errand thinking that simple tricks will suffice.
These are the 4 most common causes why we go to bed so late:
Entertainment is too good to stop
Certain games or shows are so good that you can’t make yourself stay away from them. It’s okay to unwind after a long day with a TV show or a game but sometimes entertainment can be too captivating. It becomes an issue once it starts cutting into your sleep schedule.
You can try having a specific time to go to sleep (easier said than done). Usually, people don’t define clearly by what time they want to be in bed. Bedtime is for children, right? Without a specific time boundary, they don’t break any rules because they didn’t create them in the first place.
It’s better to specify beforehand when you want to go to bed. You might even want to write it down on a piece of paper. Better yet, you can take that piece of paper and put it somewhere you’ll see it. “I will go to bed by 11:30 PM” on the bathroom mirror is one example. This is called an implementation intention. It means that you decide beforehand how you want to handle a situation in the future. Being specific in this way will help you to do what you want to do.
Hey there, if you want to stop surfing by midnight, download our extension. It will start blocking distracting sites at midnight.
When you write down that you have to stop gaming or watch shows by 11 p.m, you know whether you followed the rule or not.
If you keep breaking the rule repeatedly, it probably means you can’t moderate your behavior. If this is the case, maybe it’s time to quit temporarily. You can always try to replace it with something that is less fun or engaging and then it’s easier to stop and go to bed.
Watching TV shows or gaming until 3 AM will only make you suffer more the next day. It will impact your productivity and overall mental state. Do not let yourself do this. Decide beforehand when you want to go to bed.
You don’t want to stay alone with your thoughts
You don’t want to go to bed without any entertainment because you’re scared of having time to think. So you keep yourself busy by consuming video after video, scrolling until your eyes give up. You simply don’t want to give yourself time to think.
However, we think that not giving yourself time to think is a bad idea. We even suggest going as far as getting bored regularly.
Here’s why: the thoughts you’re avoiding are usually giving you feedback. There is something in your life you’re uncomfortable with, something you need to change. Start listening to them. It might be depressing or momentarily discouraging to realize how unsatisfied you are with your life but avoiding these thoughts won’t help anything. We feel pain in order to drive us to adapt. If a problem in your life won’t solve itself, running away from it will only make it worse. Start letting your mind wander. You will be glad you started doing.
Ideally, if you want to fall asleep, you go to bed tired, and you turn off all the distractions. Then you contemplate your life for a bit and you fall asleep in a matter of minutes.
If something really bothers you and it won’t go away, take a piece of paper and write it down. This is called a brain dump. It helps let go of persistent disturbing thoughts. The next morning, you can look at it with fresh eyes and decide what to do. You probably won’t do much about your life exhausted at 4AM.
You feel you aren’t in control of your time
Maybe you work or study a lot, or maybe you procrastinate during the day and then you have to rush to catch up.
You don’t have control of your time. You feel like your time belongs to someone else. When we don’t feel in control, we feel resentful.
To regain the sense of control, we decide to stay up late. By not going to bed we postpone having to work in the morning when we won’t be in control once again.
This is called revenge bedtime procrastination.
If you realize you feel like this, that means you’re not satisfied in your life. It’s good because at least you’re now aware that you’re not satisfied instead of escaping your thoughts.
First, the solution is to not give in to revenge bedtime procrastination. If you think about it, you’re only punishing yourself and that’s stupid. If you don’t get enough sleep, your next day will be harder and it will take you longer to finish what’s on your plate the next day.
Additionally, and we know this isn’t always possible but it might mean that you should start thinking about removing the reasons why you’re dissatisfied. Maybe you have to plan more leisure, drop certain obligations, reduce your workload, go on vacation, or maybe even change your job in the extreme scenario.
You don’t have anything to look forward to tomorrow
You dread work or another day. This is a close cousin to revenge bedtime procrastination. However, it’s not the same. You can be in control of your time, but your life lacks enough leisure and entertainment, so you want to cram as much of it in your evening as possible. Therefore you postpone having to deal with another day
Or you might be scared of the following day. You might have so many responsibilities that you dread having to deal with them. Passively consuming entertainment will help you stay deep within your comfort zone, while just thinking about your work would require stepping out of that warthm.
So what’s the strategy here?
Plan more leisure.
You need to assure your brain that there won’t be just endless boring work in the future. You need to find a reason or too to look forward to another day, not just dread it.
If you want to improve your sleep schedule, the first step is to decide what time you want to go to bed. Ideally, you want to get 7-8 hours every night. The best way to fall asleep is by being tired and turning off all the distractions.
If you can’t stand being in bed with your thoughts alone, it might be because you’re dissatisfied in your life and avoiding something. If a disturbing thought won’t go away, write it down on a piece of paper to deal with it in the morning.
If you keep sabotaging your bedtime, your entertainment is maybe too good to walk away from, or you might be engaging in revenge bedtime procrastination because you feel you’re not in control.
The last common reason is that you’re simply not looking forward to tomorrow.
When you figure out what is your cause (or a combination of them), you can start fixing these. Even alleviating them a little bit can fix your sleep schedule.
Additionally, learn about why sleep is important. Most people know sleep is good but they don’t know exactly why. Learning about sleep will increase your motivation to go to bed on time. Warning: Don’t stress about it much. There are people who start overthinking sleep and become stressed when they won’t get their perfect 8 hours. Life can get in a way and that’s okay.
Also, start regaining control of your life: if you stop procrastinating, start accomplishing more, you regain the sense of control. This almost immediately brings a sense of accomplishment and suddenly you don’t have issues going to bed. In an ideal state, you go to bed on time: because you’re tired, you actually look forward to tomorrow, and also you’re able to lie in bed contemplating your life and dreaming about tomorrow.
If you do the above, you’ll learn how good it feels when you wake up full of energy. Suddenly, staying up until 4 am mindlessly scrolling on your phone won’t be something you would ever again yearn for.