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Revenge Bedtime Procrastination


Writers: Kaitlin (ISSIA) + Liz (BMH) Editor: Hayley (BMH) Graphic designer: Arav (ISSIA) , Alexia (BMH)


Have you ever felt a need to compensate for your busy schedule with some evening “me-time”? Perhaps this might manifest as scrolling endlessly through your Instagram feed or spiraling down a three-hour long YouTube rabbit hole. Regardless, the phenomenon of sacrificing sleep for a few (or many) extra hours of relaxation describes what psychologists have come to call “revenge bedtime procrastination”.

Brief Explanation

Procrastination, the common habit of delaying action, is often linked to a failure in self-regulation–what neuroscientists categorize as one of your brain’s executive functions (among which include tasks such as initiation, inhibition, and organization).

For a habit of procrastination to be labeled as “bedtime procrastination”, it must first result in a delayed sleep time which reduces one’s total amount of sleep. Then, there must also be a lack of a “valid reason”, for pushing back one’s bedtime, such as work or insomnia. Most significantly though, there must be a general awareness that negative consequences will follow from delaying one’s sleep time.

Our daily lives are dictated by tight schedules. The word “revenge” (in “revenge bedtime procrastination'') comes into play when an individual attempts to take this lack of control into their own hands by carving out a block of time for themselves at the end of the day to regain a sense of freedom. What follows is the decision to delay their sleep, no matter how that choice might affect them the next morning.


Though research on the neuroscience behind procrastination as a whole is still in its infancy, researchers have found a positive correlation between impulsivity and procrastination. In psychology, this has been linked to the “intention-behavior gap”--the cycle where one intends to do something (in this case, sleep for an acceptable number of hours), but fails to actually do so (e.g. Engaging in revenge bedtime procrastination by embarking on a late night TV marathon). However, other research has also suggested that revenge bedtime procrastination may manifest as a result of an ill-fated attempt to find sufficient recovery time, in response to one’s overwhelming amount of daytime stress.

Additionally, findings have indicated and concluded that volition decreases during nighttime while as impulsivity increases–providing a tangible explanation for why revenge procrastination is a particularly common phenomenon.

Interestingly, both procrastination and impulsivity appear to be linked to one’s genetics.


  • A desire for “stress relief”

  • Procrastination in other contexts (e.g. Avoiding chores or work throughout the day)

  • A lack of self-control (e.g. An inability to stop playing video games or watching a movie;) at the end of the day (since self-control is often decreased with exhaustion e.g. keeping an electronic device near your bed)

  • Anxiety (e.g. perfectionism) and fear (e.g. towards completing a certain task)

  • A lack of self-care

  • Habit (repetitive and ongoing case or cyclical revenge bedtime procrastination)

2008 Study — Indecision and avoidant procrastination: the role of morningness-eveningness and time perspective in chronic delay lifestyles

  • The authors examined a group of 509 adults in regards to how time orientation and morningness-eveningness relate to 2 forms of procrastination: indecision and avoidant forms.

  • Results show that early risers didn’t procrastinate as much as people who stayed up later

  • Being more proactive to have more quiet time in the morning to complete tasks

  • Alleviate intense stress and fall asleep worry-free at night


Late nights followed by early mornings can result in sleep deprivation

  • hurt your ability to function the next day

  • affect your physical and mental health over time

Negative effects of sleep deprivation caused by revenge bedtime procrastination can potentially include:

  • Anxiety

  • Depression

  • Difficulty concentrating

  • Inflammation

  • Hallucinations

  • High blood pressure

  • Increased risk of cardiac problems and obesity

  • Weakened immunity

  • Worse memory

How to break the cycle

  • Prioritize sleep

    • Feel more rested the next day and you will have the energy to get through the tasks you need to accomplish

    • Understand how important adequate sleep is and how to fall asleep faster and better

    • Practice good sleeping habits by fixing your sleeping and waking schedules

  • Prioritize ‘me-time’

    • Schedule a block of time for yourself during daytime

    • Cut out the things that aren’t important or that are eating up your time

  • Turn Off all Digital Devices

    • Turn off the autoplay feature on your streaming service and skip scrolling through social media sites while lying in bed.

    • Set limits and turn off push notifications

    • Keep a journal to track your progress and write down your thoughts about the experience

    • Let your friends and family know that you are on a digital detox and ask for their help and support



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