If you’re delaying sleep in favor of binge TV or social media browsing, you might be a bedtime procrastinator. Here’s what that means — and how to make sure you go to bed.
When you delay sleeping
Raise your hand if you regularly scroll through your favorite social media sites while lying in bed or catching up on the news long after you should have gone to sleep. You are not alone. Many adults deal with what psychologists call “revenge delay from bedtime.”
If you’re like most people, you write down your late nights to take some time to relax before falling asleep. But psychologists say there may be more to your nighttime activities than you think. They call it “revenge delay from bedtime,” and it can lead to sleep deprivation and other problems associated with lack of sleep: memory loss, lack of alertness, a weakened immune system, and even some mental health problems.
Revenge delay of bedtime
The Sleep Foundation describes delaying revenge before bedtime as going to bed later than planned without a practical reason for doing so. Ultimately, you decide to sacrifice sleep for free time.
A study by researchers in the Netherlands described bedtime delay in 2014 in Limits in Psychology. The concept spread like wildfire, finally making its way to the United States in the summer of 2020, when writer Daphne K. Lee tweeted about the.
You understood the bedtime part. And it’s pretty obvious that you’re delaying sleep. But where does revenge come in? The answer to that intrigues psychologists.
It seems that people who don’t have much control over their time during the day stay up at night to regain a sense of control and freedom. It’s a kind of unconscious revenge, if you will. Terry Cralle, a registered nurse and licensed sleep expert with the Better Sleep Council, says sleep scientists are fascinated because what seems like a simple coincidence can have deeper psychological roots.
How do you know if you’re a vengeful bedtime procrastinator?
You may be guilty of delaying bedtime if you:
- Suffers from sleep loss from frequently postponing your bedtime
- Postpone your bedtime for no apparent reason
- Stay up until after bedtime, even though you know it can lead to negative consequences
Janelle Watson, a licensed marriage and family therapist and owner of Embrace Wellness, emphasizes that we shouldn’t confuse bedtime delay with staying up late to work or complete homework. Those are both reasons for delaying bedtime, but delaying sleep won’t help you check items off your to-do list.
“The unconscious psychological goal of delaying revenge before bedtime is to regain control of your time,” Watson says. Bedtime and sleep procrastination usually include activities that provide instant pleasure, such as watching Netflix, reading, talking with friends, or surfing the Internet.
The Psychology Behind Delaying Revenge Before Bedtime
Bedtime revenge is still an emerging concept in sleep science, and there are ongoing discussions about the psychology behind this behavior. But the truth is, Americans don’t get enough sleep.
Although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that adults ages 18 and older get at least seven hours of sleep a night, a 2013 Gallup survey found that 56 percent of adults don’t get a full night’s sleep, and 43 percent said they would feel better if they slept more.
So why do some of us make an informed decision to fan the flames of our sleepy mornings and sleepy workdays? According to Watson, the answer to that question “is at the root of the postponement of revenge before bedtime”.
Studies suggest that Americans’ time management has become increasingly complex for a variety of reasons, including changing and unpredictable work schedules and gender, class, and racial inequality.
“While work schedules are a huge factor in getting revenge for bedtime delays, some of my clients are also stuck with tight schedules with their kids, family, and other roles and responsibilities that take away their ‘me’ time during the day,” says Watson.
Who will delay going to bed the most?
Watson says that people who procrastinate when they go to sleep typically want a full night’s sleep, but are unable to do so.
Sleep experts refer to this as an intention-behavior gap that is sometimes caused by self-control or self-regulation challenges. Self-control is usually lowest at the end of the day, making it easier to give in to the temptation of self-indulgence.
While most people have the best intentions when it comes to getting a full night’s sleep, studies show you’re more likely to delay going to bed by a reasonable hour if you:
- Set procrastination in other areas of your life
- Having a stressful or otherwise demanding job
- Find yourself “resisting desires” for the rest of your day
- Work in an environment that requires your work life to coincide with your personal life or does not give you time to de-stress after work (such as working from home)
- Are you a woman or a student?
How to deal with delaying revenge before bedtime?
If you think you’re a bedtime procrastinator, experts suggest seven ways to go to bed and get some much-needed rest:
- Be aware of your rest. “If necessary, schedule your sleep by setting alarms, television timers, and other devices to alert you when it’s nearly bedtime,” Watson says.
- If possible, start tapering 30 minutes before bedtime.
- Create a realistic bedtime goal that takes into account your daily schedule.
- Turn off all electronic devices and put all sources of distraction out of your reach after getting into bed.
- Practice relaxation strategies such as mindfulness and meditation.
- Get to the root of the problem by developing healthy coping strategies to deal with your stress throughout the day.
- If all else fails, talk to a therapist.