You’ve probably been there before. Your day has been spent attending Zoom classes and struggling through lengthy assignments. You finally shut your laptop to call it a night when you realize that it’s midnight. Feeling like you had no time to relax, you vow to stay up just a bit longer. Before you know it, the clock says it’s 3 AM, and you have to be up in 5 hours. The next day you’re exhausted, but you continue this routine every night. Why? You just can’t help it.
This phenomenon is called revenge bedtime procrastination. Healthline describes this practice as “taking revenge on the daytime hours that kept you so preoccupied, and [choosing] to take some time for yourself at night.” This phrase has become increasingly popular in recent months because of the stress-induced by COVID-19 and at-home learning. For families who work from home, it’s difficult to find alone time. To make matters worse, doing school from home has blurred the lines between work and relaxation, making students feel like they’re living at school. Without any freedom during the day, nighttime feels like the only time that students have for themselves.
“With online school, I barely have any free time now. Beforehand, I always had some time set aside to spend time with friends and enjoy myself but now I feel that teachers are giving more work, and it’s harder to concentrate because we are at home. So when I do have free time, I always end up staying up very late because it doesn’t happen often, and I want to have as much free time as possible,” says Amelia Kim, a senior at Eagle Rock High.
Dr. Rajkumar Dasgupta tells CNN Health that revenge bedtime procrastination is “just a cry from overworked people, and they're actually trying to put off bedtime just a little bit so they can reclaim something for themselves." Unfortunately, those extra few hours of free time can have detrimental effects on one’s health. That groggy feeling you have the next day is actually the result of sleep deprivation. After a prolonged period without sufficient sleep, you are more likely to deal with cardiovascular issues and harm your metabolism to the extent of developing diabetes. On top of physical effects, sleep deprivation is known to worsen anxiety and depression.
Mathilda Barr, another student who is struggling with revenge bedtime procrastination, describes staying up late as “freeing in the sense that I have time alone to finish my work, [but] the night is often spent anxiously procrastinating and rushing to finish assignments. The next day, I’m only left feeling more exhausted and repeating the same cycle.” This cycle is so impossible to escape because the severe lack of sleep results in reduced impulse control. The combination of worsened thinking and decision-making makes it easy to push back your bedtime, even if it isn’t a rational choice.
For students especially, it’s imperative that you overcome the temptation of bedtime procrastination. Daytime sleepiness can harm your productivity, especially on Zoom, since it is so easy to become distracted. This will only make school more stressful, and create more pressure to find relaxation at night. Thankfully, there are some simple changes you can make to your routine to help regulate your sleep.
Schedule more breaks for yourself during the day.
Set strict goals for yourself in terms of bedtime and wake-up time.
Don’t drink caffeinated beverages after the afternoon.
Avoid naps longer than 20 minutes because they can disrupt your sleep pattern.
Stop using your phone 20-30 minutes before sleeping so you don’t feel tempted to extend your free time.
Use your nighttime freedom for stretching, reading, or meditating as a substitute for using your phone.
I may be a hypocrite because I’m writing this article at 3:00 in the morning. But coming from the queen of revenge bedtime procrastination, it isn’t a healthy routine. Do your best to beat bedtime procrastination and relish your freedom at every time of day.