What Is Revenge Bedtime Procrastination?

This phrase entered the English-speaking mainstream when journalist Daphne K. Lee tweeted about it in June 2020. "Learned a very relatable term today... revenge bedtime procrastination," Lee wrote. "A phenomenon in which people who don’t have much control over their daytime life refuse to sleep early, in order to regain some sense of freedom during late-night hours."

What is Revenge Bedtime Procrastination (RBP)?
The Sleep Foundation has specific criteria to define revenge bedtime procrastination:

  1. A delay in going to sleep that reduces one’s total sleep time
  2. The absence of a valid reason for staying up later than intended, such as an external event or an underlying illness
  3. An awareness that delaying one’s bedtime could lead to negative consequences

Why do we self-sabotage like this?

Photo by Windows on Unsplash

Dr. Ciara Kelly, a work psychology expert at Sheffield University's Management school, explains that RBP is our misguided attempt at recalibrating our work-life balance. The mere existence of quick, constant digital communication can make us feel like we're "always at work," says said in a November 2020 interview with BBC. "Because work can call on us at any time." And yet studies like this 2014 one, published in Journal of Organization Behavior, indicate that psychological detachment from work is a key component of mental recovery.

Researchers found that job-related stress may not necessarily be governed by workload, but a lack of detachment from work-related concerns. (Lack of detachment "predicts high strain levels and poor individual well-being," which includes "burnout and lower life satisfaction," the researchers found.)

“One of the most important parts of recovery from work is sleep," Kelly says. "However, sleep is affected by how well we detach." So, yes, in order to sleep better, you should pencil in some mentally-distanced downtime after work. 

We know subconsciously that this post-work leisure time is enriching, but some of us are willing to sacrifice sleep for it — which is net-gain zero. “People are stuck in a Catch-22 when they don’t have time to detach from their work before they go to sleep," Kelly says. "It is likely to negatively affect their sleep."

Heading 3: Who is at-risk for RBP?

As you can imagine, people who feel that they are “night owls” (aka, people who have an evening chronotype) are at-risk for RBP. A 2019 study on Bedtime Procrastination, Sleep-Related Behaviors, and Demographic Factors found that women and students were the most likely to engage in this sleep rebellion. In 2020, Harvard Business School found that WFH has caused an increase in working hours for many people. In essence, the pandemic has eroded remote employees’ work-life balance.

The impact of the pandemic on working mothers is even more intense. Decades before COVID-19, researchers have documented how women are saddled with the “double burden” of working a day job and then tending to household tasks. (The latter is often called the “second shift,” a phrase popularized by sociologist Arlie Hochschild.) 

Heading 4: How do you kick RBP to the curb?

Photo by Sincerely Media on Unsplash

For one, it's crucial to heal your relationship with work. A way to detach is to unplug from your electronics. "There are times when you should just shut your phone off and enjoy the moment,” Dr. Robert Brooks, a psychology professor at Harvard Medical School, says in a Forbes interview. By severing that ever-present tie to your job, you develop more resilience. “Resilient people feel a greater sense of control over their lives,” Brook says.

Secondly, make sleep inviting again. Prioritize your sleep hygiene. The Sleep Foundation recommends incorporating relaxation methods into your nighttime routine. "Relaxation techniques may also decrease the stress that can drive revenge bedtime procrastination," the foundation points out. Along with reading, meditating, or engaging in some light stretching, you might benefit from checking out some sleep aids like CBD or melatonin.

Third, the sleep advocacy group advises bedtime procrastinators to make the bedroom as welcoming as possible: dark and quiet, with a comfortable mattress and cozy bedding. "An inviting sleep space may counteract the desire to sacrifice sleep for leisure activities," the Sleep Foundation explains. A great addition to the line-up? RECLINER’s thermo-regulating Dreamtech®, in the form of our Night Tee Sleep-Dress.

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Next time you're feeling stressed and chaotic — you know, like you'd rather marathon-watch The Crown or Lupin rather than get a full night's sleep — remember the origins of this impulse. Turn your energy instead to making a proper work detachment game plan or a luxe nighttime routine, so you can get the peace you crave and deserve.

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