If you’ve ever felt like your habit of staying up late every night was just a naughty little indulgence, you could actually be experiencing what’s been dubbed as “Revenge Bedtime Procrastination”. Never heard of it before? Neither! Turns out those Netflix binges that run late into the night could be something a little more sinister. We chat to Lysn psychologist Nancy Sokarno to get the lowdown on this experience that could actually be affecting your wellbeing.
What is revenge bedtime procrastination?
Revenge bedtime procrastination is a psychological phenomenon where people stay up late into the night as a sort of revenge on the day. It’s that feeling when staying up late is not necessarily the right thing to do, but they do it anyway. As the hours tick by they know they should go to sleep, but something inside of them keeps them awake. It often happens because they feel as though they didn’t have much power over their day. Therefore, staying up late at night means they can regain some control of that time and ‘own’ a little bit of the night.
There is a theory that Revenge bedtime procrastination is on the increase right now. While the idea of sleep procrastination isn’t new to researchers, the revenge side of things is. The reason it could be on the increase is because we are currently experiencing a global pandemic which means many things in our lives feel out of our control. Besides the very real health implications, many people are also in lockdown, or forced to work from home – both of these things combined can unfortunately make a person feel like they’ve lost a lot of control over their day. Restrictions also mean people are limited in who they see, where they go, how far they go etc, with all these restrictions sometimes making life feel rather regimented. Then add to that fact that with the work from home situation often means the lines between work life and home life are blurred. Therefore, you could feel like your entire day is dedicated to work or at the very least constantly thinking about it, which can cause someone to feel like they’ve got less and less control in their day.
Does it have short-term effects?
Well, it really just depends. Staying up late at night doesn’t necessarily pose any implications in the short term, other than the obvious things like feeling tired or running late for tasks. It can also be habit forming, so while a few late nights might not be a bad thing, it could easily turn into a habit that can be harder to break. It could also potentially cause an increase in stress levels due to the lack of sleep and on-flow effects this has. Say for example, you’re staying awake so late that you then need to sleep in, which causes you to be running late for your day. Everyone knows how running late or with looming deadlines can cause you to feel incredibly stressed. Or it could make a person feel stressed if they are worried about the fact that they’re staying up so late and berating themselves for it. It could also make someone stressed if the lack of sleep is then lowering their mood and leading a shorter temper etc.
Are there any long-term effects?
This really just depends on how often it is happening and whether this habit is affecting other areas. Sleep is incredibly important so it certainly can be harmful if staying up late means a person isn’t getting enough sleep each night (which is likely the case)! The benefits of a good night’s sleep are unrivalled when it comes to our wellbeing, but more particularly what can happen when we don’t get enough of it. Lack of sleep can render a person to be more prone to mood swings, compromise decision-making and impact creativity levels. In the long term, lack of sleep can affect a person’s overall health and make them prone to more serious medical conditions, such as obesity, heart disease and diabetes.
How can we stop doing it?
Start by putting up some boundaries in your day where you allow yourself some time all to yourself (without any outside distractions). A great way to start, is by slowing going to bed earlier and earlier each night – it might be hard at first because your body clock has likely changed. So, if you do this gradually it might be easier. Then, try to allocate some time in each day that is yours. This might mean setting your alarm a little earlier each morning and before checking things like emails and social media, use that time to do the things you enjoy. The minute you read emails or messages etc on your phone, your brain will automatically start thinking about the things you need to do that day. So instead, have half an hour or an hour to yourself before checking. You could also do this throughout the day, maybe during lunch where you might put your phone on aeroplane mode for a little while so you can go for an undistracted walk.
Another way to stop revenge bedtime procrastination is by doing enough during the day so you are really tired, and you want to sleep! Sometimes if our brains or bodies aren’t tired enough, we do feel as though we can stay awake longer. Make sure you have enough psychical and emotional stimulation throughout the day, so you are ready for rest once bedtime hits.
If you’re staying up late at night because you feel stressed, anxious, overwhelmed or are worried about things in your life, it is important to seek help from a professional. As mentioned earlier, sleep is vital for a balanced wellbeing so it’s important to prioritise it and seek help if there are reasons you’re staying awake. Places like Beyond Blue and Lifeline offer free over the phone counselling, and services like Lysn offer appointments with a psychologist from the comfort of your own home. Lysn provides access to psychologists via video chat, which can be accessed from the comfort of your own home for a fee. Lysn can also help you find your best-fit online psychologist through a simple, sophisticated matching questionnaire.
Nancy Sokarno is a psychologist at Lysn. Lysn is a digital mental health company with world class wellbeing technology which helps people find their best-fit professional psychologist whilst being able to access online tools to improve their mental health. www.welysn.com
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