Revenge Bedtime Procrastination: The Bad Habit That Keeps Us Up At Night

When it's quiet, dark, and easy to tuck yourself into a bubble as you simultaneously tuck beneath the sheets at night, enjoying the freedom of not having responsibilities and finally having a little bit of time to yourself can be refreshing. During the latest hours of the day, you don't have to answer to anyone but yourself, and it's likely that your own inner voice is cheering you on to sneak in an episode of your favorite show or scroll through TikTok for just a while longer. When you think about it, that small window of time just before you go to sleep could be the only true time you get to do what you actually want to do, even mindlessly scroll through social media. The problem is that what you might intend to only be a few minutes may likely turn into several hours, and ultimately you end up sacrificing hours of needed sleep for extra episodes or deep dives through social media. This presents the issue of revenge bedtime procrastination.


Adults need eight hours of sleep, but this fact can be easily ignored when scrolling Instagram or binging a show are more appealing when you crawl into bed. WebMD reports that revenge bedtime procrastination, otherwise called sleep procrastination, is the act of postponing falling asleep with the intention of squeezing in self-indulgent activities like watching television, going online, or otherwise staying awake to take advantage of the time you can enjoy entirely for yourself. Here's what to know.

Revenge is sought for lack of solo time

The revenge aspect of revenge bedtime procrastination may sound menacing, but the reality is that it's much more a description of why people frequently engage in the habit than a conscious revenge plot. When it comes to modern schedules, our days are frequently over-packed and we feel pressure to be as productive as possible, which leaves us with little-to-no time for ourselves. At night, when all is quiet, the peaceful atmosphere within our bedrooms can become an unknowing refuge for taking back time for ourselves that we're denied throughout the day. Many times, people who engage in revenge bedtime procrastination may do so without realizing that they're postponing sleep to grasp at extra time awake for the purpose of enjoying time alone. Other times, people who have a habit of sleep procrastination are well aware that the habit will negatively affect their sleep quality and length of time sleeping each night, but continue to seek out the refuge of mindless online scrolling or watching Netflix because they're seeking time for themselves without the demands of daily life, per Sleep Foundation. When someone stays up later than intended to seek time for themselves, there's a good chance that they're taking revenge on the over-scheduled nature of daily life.


To clarify, revenge bedtime procrastination is not insomnia. Sleep procrastination is a habit that can be changed through behavioral adaptations, with the first step becoming aware of why they routinely engage in revenge bedtime procrastination.

It might be subconscious stress relief

We live busy lives, which isn't new information. In today's world, we often move so quickly throughout our days that we literally don't have a full minute to ourselves until we're in bed at night. As the weight of responsibilities, relationships, financial matters, and everything else dealt to us mount on top of one another, we're left dealing with significant stress. When we don't allow ourselves the time to process our stress and seek relief from the strain of everything building up, then there's a good chance that revenge bedtime procrastination could transpire as a subconscious way of seeking out stress relief and much-needed relaxation. Should you hear about revenge bedtime procrastination and feel like you can relate to the habit, then the first thing you should do is consider if it's the one time during your day when you feel like you're free from the pressure of daily responsibilities, can enjoy a quiet moment, and indulge in something fun merely for the sake of amusement. If you can answer yes to these experiences, then stress is likely a subconscious factor and potential underlying cause.


In an ideal world, we would all have lots of extra time to exercise, meditate, journal, and generally undertake stress relief activities. There are ways to build healthy stress relief habits into your routine in small steps, but the first action is becoming aware that you may be engaging in sleep procrastination for the purpose of stress relief.

There are negative consequences to the habit

Several health impacts can occur from routine use of sleep procrastination, especially if the habit is driven by an unresolved need for stress relief. Even though it can be extremely juicy to indulge in a Netflix marathon, doing so at the expense of sleep likely won't produce results that balance out the enjoyment of binging your favorite show late at night. According to WebMD, the health effects of revenge bedtime procrastination include a decline in memory and cognitive functioning, an inability to maintain focus and attention, and mental health implications such as increased irritability and anxiety. Moreover, living with unresolved stress that is compounded by lack of sleep can lead to a downward spiral that could potentially include exacerbated anxiety, poor diet, lack of exercise, chronic fatigue, exhaustion, weight gain or loss, and even negative effects on your heart health. Immersing yourself in TikTok for an extra hour or two before going to sleep might not seem like a big deal, but over time the habit of sleep procrastination probably isn't worth the negative impacts on your health.


Due to the hyper-connectedness of today's world and frequently being expected to respond to emails and messages around the clock, finding time to enjoy a leisurely activity or simply do something of our own choosing is becoming an increasing rarity. Turning to revenge bedtime procrastination might appear to be the only way to enjoy those few leisurely moments, but it ultimately isn't good for health.

How to break the cycle of sleep procrastination

Even if streaming an entire season of a show is fun at the time, it's clear that the habitual practice of sleep procrastination isn't a healthy routine to adopt. If you find yourself resonating with the description of revenge bedtime procrastination, or if you can relate to seeking stress relief through late-night postponement of sleep, it might feel like the time before bed is the only time when you can utilize your time for yourself. Fortunately, there are small, manageable ways that you can shift your habits so that you're able to achieve stress relief as you need it throughout the day and still be able to get the seven to nine hours of sleep recommended for adults. One of the easiest, yet perhaps one of the hardest, ways to reclaim your sleeping hours is to leave electronics outside of the bedroom so that you can't fall into a midnight rabbit hole on social media. The blue light from electronics can stimulate our brains and decrease the amount of natural melatonin created by our bodies, which we need to properly fall asleep.


Should you find that you stay awake ruminating or worrying about things in your life, hence why revenge bedtime procrastination may be appealing, try instead to journal about your feelings so that you can get them out of your head and onto paper, where they can remain until after you've gotten a full night of rest.

Reclaiming daytime stress relief opportunities

Taking steps at night to practice self-restraint from electronic devices and putting worries in a journal are good habits to cultivate in your evening routine, but since revenge bedtime procrastination commonly stems from lack of time for oneself during the day then reclaiming opportunities for stress relief during daylight hours is an essential step for overcoming the habit of staying awake later than you should. First of all, know that finding opportunities for daytime stress relief is absolutely possible, no matter how hectic your daily schedule may be. Mayo Clinic recommends embracing active stress relief outlets, rather than inactive outlets like watching television or scrolling online. Examples of active stress relief include simple things like laughing, making a concerted effort to exude a sense of humor, getting exercise by taking the stairs or walking around your office, and talking to friends and family members throughout the day.


Mindfulness is an umbrella of relaxing activities proven to relieve stress, including but not limited to yoga, tai chi, and meditation. Mindfulness also includes massage, including self-massage for a few minutes at your desk or even before bed, and deep breathing exercises such as box breathing or 4-7-8 breathing. Take small steps, like choosing one deep breathing exercise and trying to do it twice a day, then build up by including additional healthy habits. You can consider time spent deep breathing for 60 seconds throughout the day to be revenge stress relief against revenge bedtime procrastination.