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Questions to Identify Revenge Bedtime Procrastination

Delaying your bedtime to get "me" time can be a signal of this problem.

Key points

  • When you stay up late to have "me" time instead of going to bed at a reasonable hour, you may have revenge bedtime procrastination.
  • Not getting enough sleep can lead to irritability, poor memory, poor attention, irritability, and increased anxiety.
  • Revenge bedtime procrastination can signal deeper problems around feelings of disempowerment, lack of autonomy, and burnout.

Do you stay up late to have "me" time instead of going to bed at an hour when you know you should? "Revenge bedtime procrastination" is when people decide to sacrifice sleep to enjoy leisure time or time to themselves, which is often caused by a stressful or packed schedule. The concept of revenge bedtime procrastination was popularized on social media during the pandemic when people with high-stress jobs described cherishing leisure hours at bedtime, even though it led them to inadequate sleep. People decided to do things that they could immediately enjoy (playing video games, watching TV, being on social media) instead of sleeping—even if it meant not getting enough sleep.

Inadequate sleep leads to poor attention, irritability, worse memory, increased anxiety, and poor decision-making. Chronic sleep deficiency worsens health problems like diabetes, high blood pressure, weight gain, and heart issues. Procrastinating bedtime as a habit can also lead to pushing back the bedtime later and later, disrupting one's natural circadian rhythm. Waking up at the required times for work becomes more difficult over time.

While revenge bedtime procrastination is not a clinical diagnosis, here are five questions to help you identify the phenomenon.

1. Do you find yourself delaying going to sleep consistently in a way that cuts into your ideal bedtime and number of hours of sleep?

Most people recognize how much sleep they need to feel rested. If you find yourself repeatedly cutting into your preferred number of sleep hours by delaying your bedtime, even though you are increasingly tired, this may be a sign to ask yourself why.

2. Why you are staying up later than you had intended? Do you crave me time at the end of the day?

Sometimes there are external or medical reasons unrelated to revenge bedtime procrastination that delay sleep— insomnia, chronic pain, or underlying medical illnesses. In revenge bedtime procrastination, the primary driver is that people use this time as me time for leisurely things they do not otherwise get to enjoy during the day.

3. Are you willing to lose sleep to get a few hours of enjoyment or time to yourself, even though you recognize that you will feel worse later?

If you find yourself so excited or relieved to have a few hours to yourself at the end of the day and trade in your sleep even though you know you will feel worse later, then this is a sign of revenge sleep procrastination.

People with this type of sleep procrastination recognize that inadequate sleep makes them feel more tired, exhausted, stressed out, irritable, and less productive. However, giving up those few hours of extra leisure time at the end of the day can feel impossible, especially if those are the only hours of the day that one enjoys.

4. Is your typical daily or weekly schedule overpacked and more stressful, without any regularly reserved periods for leisure or self-care?

If you find yourself pushing back your sleep time to get a few treasured hours of fun or relaxation, then this is a sign that you may not be getting enough self-care, leisure, or relaxation during a typical day or week. The pattern of this procrastination often reveals an underlying problem of not getting enough self-care or regularly scheduled downtime in general. It is worth considering overall work-life balance, scheduling obligations, and finding additional support for scheduled self-care.

5. Do you feel like you lack autonomy, whether at work or home? Do you feel on the verge of burnout, especially if you did not have these few hours to yourself?

Another factor that can amplify revenge bedtime procrastination is a sense of lack of autonomy or control in other areas of life. Whether it is a demanding boss, a stressful family situation, or exhausting caretaking obligations, when people feel that they lack freedom in their daily life, then the few hours before bedtime can become the only time they feel like they have control over. That time becomes even more highly cherished and protected as self-empowerment and self-expression of choice over how they decide to spend that time, a rare few hours of not having to answer to anyone else's demands.

Having this time to themselves is so rare and valuable, that people repeatedly will choose to do something they enjoy over sleeping, even if they know they will become more and more exhausted over time. In these situations, revenge procrastination can signal a deeper problem of disempowerment and lack of autonomy that is worth considering, especially since chronic sleep deprivation can indicate emerging burnout. Those issues may need to be directly addressed before any changes to improving the sleep schedule can be made.

Awareness is the first step in counteracting revenge bedtime procrastination. While it is not a technical diagnosis, the phenomenon is important to consider as a possible cause for why you may be going to bed later than you want to and not getting the sleep that your body and mind need, and an important signal to prevent burnout.

Marlynn Wei, MD, PLLC © Copyright 2023


Kroese, F. M., De Ridder, D. T., Evers, C., & Adriaanse, M. A. (2014). Bedtime procrastination: Introducing a new area of procrastination. Frontiers in Psychology, 5, 611

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