The Surprising Way to Overcome “Revenge Bedtime Procrastination”

What you do during the day helps you avoid this phenomenon.

Guido Mieth / Getty Images
Guido Mieth / Getty Images

Among the many things that can keep you up at night is a phenomenon you might not have heard of until recently: “revenge bedtime procrastination.” Though it’s not entirely clear where the term originated, it’s believed to have been popularized by millennials in China working hectic hours. Now, the phrase is spreading like wildfire on social media, probably because the practice is just so relatable. Simply put, revenge bedtime procrastination is when we don’t have much control over our daytime lives due to working hours, pushing us to “retaliate” by staying up late. “We put off sleeping because we ‘deserve’ some ‘me’ time” after a long day at work, Wayne Pernell, Ph.D., a speaker, author, and leadership coach tells Thrive. “Then, we get up and do it all again.” 

Psychologists have confirmed that revenge bedtime procrastination isn’t just some phrase the kids are using — it’s a very real, potentially debilitating occurrence. Simply put, the practice isn’t productive. Skimping on sleep has a negative impact on every area of our lives, from our work performance to our relationships with others — and ourselves. 

So, how can we avoid the temptation to put off bedtime? Turns out, it all comes down to the choices we make during the day. Give these daytime Microsteps a try today to avoid revenge bedtime procrastination tonight.

Eat lunch away from your desk or work station. 

This gives you a consistent routine and opportunity to recharge — not to mention a much-needed screentime break for your eyes. Plus, when you’ve spent time away from your work during the day, you won’t feel as desperate for that break in the evening. 

Block time on your calendar for exercise. 

Treat your exercise time like you would an important meeting or doctor’s appointment you wouldn’t miss. Once you shift your mindset about exercise and prioritize the time for yourself, you’ll feel better at night and be ready for sleep when the time comes. If you’re able, try taking your workout outside during the day. “Research shows that just 20 minutes outside can make all the difference in your mental and physical health,” Pernell says. 

Do one small thing each morning that brings you joy. 

It might be meditating, walking, or making a breakfast you love. From this foundation, you’ll build up strength and resilience for the day — and you won’t feel deprived of “me time” when nighttime rolls around. Pernell suggests adding this to your calendar, too.

Declare an end to each workday, even if you haven’t completed every last thing on your to-do list.

“Acknowledge what you did accomplish this day. Know that the work will be there in the morning,” Pernell says. Effectively prioritizing means being comfortable with incompletions and taking time to recharge. By doing so, you’ll find you have time to unwind in the early evenings — eliminating the need to put off bedtime in the first place.

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