Picture this: you’re laying in bed and your eyes are drooping. Time is ticking away and after a long day of work you’re curled up in your PJs. But instead of trying to fall asleep, you just can’t stop scrolling through Instagram. You know when the morning comes you’ll be exhausted and desperate for coffee, yet you stay up anyway as the minutes fly by.
If you’re guilty of evading shut-eye by trying to sneak in some extra me-time, you’re performing the phenomenon known as revenge bedtime procrastination. The bad news is a lack of sleep is not so great for your health. But the good news is that, with some tips, you can stop staying up all night.
Related: Wellness educator Chivon John’s 5 tips for falling asleep in under an hour.
What is revenge bedtime procrastination?
The term bedtime procrastination was first coined by Dutch researchers, who discovered this form of sleep procrastination in a 2014 study. It is defined as failing to go to bed at the intended time, while no external circumstances (such as loud noises or uncomfortable sheets) are stopping you from doing so.
It’s not applicable to people who can’t sleep due to sleep disorders — they were excluded from the study — but rather those of us who could fall asleep but instead choose to stay awake.
The ‘revenge’ part was added to the term in 2020, to describe those of us who take back that personal time for ourselves instead of sleeping. So when you’re tired and comfy yet find yourself reaching for your phone, or cracking open your laptop for Netflix instead of going to sleep, you’re being a revenge bedtime procrastinator.
Related: This is how I fought insomnia and won.
Why am I procrastinating on sleep?
According to the study, bedtime procrastination often happens when people have little mental energy, or self-control strength. A more recent study from 2018 suggested that people are less likely to stick to their intended bedtime after having a rough or stressful day. This is in part because these people want some more time for themselves and feel that it’s the only way they will be able to enjoy some me-time to relax before sleeping.
Related: 11 sleep myths you probably think are true.
How can I stop staying up all night?
Because revenge bedtime procrastination can be tied to a lack of time spent doing things for yourself during the day, it is important to carve out this time while the sun is still shining. Whether it’s going for a walk to get ice cream or listening to a podcast you like, take a few minutes for yourself so that you won’t be tempted to stay up at bedtime.
Exercise and sleep are also connected, and it’s important to get enough exercise during the day so that you’ll want to rest when it comes time for some shut-eye. Several studies have shown that exercise improves sleep quality or duration, so get your sweat on, but be careful not to exercise close to bedtime.
Another technique to try is the power-down hour, coined by psychologist and sleep expert Michael Breus. Take an hour before bed to unwind, by blocking your time into 20-minute chunks to ensure you take all the steps to prep for a good night’s sleep.
- Stage 1: Use the first 20 minutes to finish up anything that has to be done for tomorrow, such as making your lunch or laying out an outfit.
- Stage 2: Take the next 20 minutes to do your hygiene routine.
- Stage 3: Unwind during the last 20 minutes. Try to relax by meditating, listening to soothing music or whatever else helps you to drift off to dreamland.
You may also like: How to use lucid dreaming to heal.