'Revenge bedtime procrastination' – what it is and how to avoid it

This relatable phenomenon could backfire the morning after

A streaming service menu out of focus in a living room at night
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Ever stayed up late binge-watching your favorite series even though you know you’ll be dead tired in the morning? You can probably relate to the concept of revenge bedtime procrastination. Essentially, it’s when you put off going to bed while totally aware that it will mess up your sleep and you’ll wake up feeling bleary-eyed. But you do it anyway.

Sleep deprivation is not fun. It can affect everything from your mood to hunger pangs. Learning more about revenge bedtime procrastination can help you better understand what’s happening and take action to stop it.

Sometimes, not even the best mattress can tempt you into bed. I'll cover who revenge bedtime procrastination is likely to affect and the potential impacts. Plus, I've asked an expert for tips to help you enjoy a healthier relationship with sleep. 

What is revenge bedtime procrastination?

Firstly, what exactly is revenge bedtime procrastination? 'Bedtime procrastination starts in your mind. It’s a psychological phenomenon where an individual delays going to bed – on purpose – no matter what the foreseeable consequences of potentially being a zombie the next morning.  I’m not sure why we do it, but it happens,' says Lauri Leadley, president and founder of the Valley Sleep Center in Arizona. 

Revenge bedtime procrastination became a hot topic after a journalist, Daphne K. Lee, tweeted about it. She heard about the phenomenon in the context of people working long hours in China. Postponing bedtime enabled people to carve out more leisure time, but at the expense of their sleep and health. While the phenomenon was first recognized in China, it resonated with people elsewhere. 

Lauri Leadley

Lauri is the founder and President of Valley Sleep Center, one of the largest independent sleep diagnostics centers in Arizona with the facilities to diagnose and treat a variety of sleep-related issues such as insomnia, sleepwalking, snoring, and more. The center has five locations in the Phoenix area including Mesa, Chandler, Scottsdale, Glendale, and Phoenix.

Who does revenge bedtime procrastination affect?

bedroom with gray upholstered bed and blue bench

(Image credit: Aaron Leitz)

People are talking about revenge bedtime procrastination for a reason. 'We all do it from time to time,' says Lauri. On occasion, it’s natural and not necessarily anything to worry about. But if it becomes a persistent pattern then it’s worth paying attention. 'If a person does this routinely, running on empty nearly every day, it’s a problem.  Getting to the root cause is imperative to good health,' advises Lauri. 

It turns out that some people are more prone to it than others. Consider yourself a night owl? According to Lauri, it’s more likely to affect 'anyone who gets their second wind late in the evening, or if you’re a night shift worker, on the heels of a busy work night.' That’s because you may struggle to wind down before bedtime. 

What are the effects of revenge bedtime procrastination?

Revenge bedtime procrastination can lead to insufficient sleep, which harms your health. 'Depriving yourself of sleep wears down your body and your mind. You can feel so exhausted that you may feel like a walking zombie,' says Lauri.  

Over time, it can have a serious impact. 'Multiple studies show that lack of sleep over a period can lead to several physical and mental health risks which can potentially be fatal,' says Lauri. There’s an increased risk of developing conditions with life-threatening complications. For example, 'people who are sleep deprived cannot process glucose as efficiently as those who get a full night’s sleep. That means they are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes,' she adds. 

We’re waking up to the impact of a lack of sleep on wellbeing. 'In some people, disrupted sleep can cause irritation and a general lack of energy and focus. In others, it could lead to radically different behavior like drastic mood swings, cognitive or memory problems, depression, and anxiety,' explains Lauri.

How to avoid revenge bedtime procrastination

Quitting revenge bedtime procrastination can be tough, but small steps make a difference. There's a few tips to help you enjoy a restful night’s sleep for energized days. If revenge bedtime procrastination sounds familiar, it’s worth delving into what’s driving that behavior. Consider speaking to a health professional to figure this out. Tweaking your daytime routine to carve out me-time could mean you’re less tempted to sacrifice your sleep.

You should also look into Improving your sleep. 'If you are having trouble sleeping at night, your bedroom may need a sleep makeover. Make sure your room is clean, and keep the lights down and screens off at bedtime. Also, keep your bedroom at a comfortable temperature of 60-67 degrees so that you are not too cold or too hot at night,' recommends Lauri.

“Make sure you give yourself time to unplug and relax before sleep. If you try to go to bed without relaxing and preparing for sleep beforehand, your body and mind may still be energized and awake. [This could] cause you to have trouble falling asleep easily and quickly,” explains Lauri. Try reading or gentle yoga to help ease you into slumber.

“Choose a bedtime and a wake-up time, and try to stick to your schedule of going to sleep and waking up at the same times each day. Don’t forgo your routine on the weekends. You’ll help your body clock adjust to a regular routine that will benefit you with good, quality sleep consistently,” advises Lauri.

That’s right - it’s a myth that alcohol sends you to sleep. “Avoid alcohol, nicotine, caffeine, or heavy meals close to bedtime. They can interfere with your sleep quality and interrupt your sleep patterns,” cautions Lauri.

Struggling to fall asleep? Don’t force it, as you may wind up anxious. “If you are having trouble falling asleep, go into another room and read quietly by lamplight or do another relaxing activity you enjoy. Try to go to sleep again once you feel completely relaxed and tired,” suggests Lauri.


Does blue light keep you awake?

Yes, blue light can keep you awake. Another cause of revenge bedtime procrastination, the blue light from screens affects your melatonin production which can stop you from falling asleep. 

Is revenge bedtime procrastination a symptom of anything?

No, it's not a symptom of anything. It's just a bad habit that can disrupt your sleep. While that can be disruptive, it's not an illness. 

Sometimes, it's not procrastination keeping you awake, just good old-fashioned insomnia. In that case, there are other methods to try, like the 478 sleep method.

Louise Bond

Louise Bond is a UK-based writer. She has a background in health and loves discovering new ways to nurture wellbeing. Louise has been published in The Guardian, Fit & Well, Breathe, Top Ten Reviews, and more. You can usually find her out in nature, whether on an invigorating hike or pottering in the garden.