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Revenge Bedtime Procrastination—Is This Keeping You up Late at Night?

If you delay sleep in favor of bingeing TV or browsing social media, you may be a bedtime procrastinator. Here’s what that means—and how to make yourself go to bed.

When you put off going to sleep

Raise your hand if you regularly find yourself scrolling through your favorite social media sites while lying in bed or catching up on the news long after you were supposed to go to sleep. You’re not alone. Plenty of adults deal with what psychologists call “revenge bedtime procrastination.”

If you’re like most people, you chalk up your late nights to taking a little time to unwind before falling asleep. But psychologists say there might be more behind your nightly activities than you think. They call it “revenge bedtime procrastination” and it can lead to sleep deprivation and other issues connected to a lack of sleep: memory loss, lack of alertness, a weakened immune system, and even some mental health challenges.

Revenge bedtime procrastination

The Sleep Foundation describes revenge bedtime procrastination as going to bed later than planned without a practical reason for doing so. Ultimately, you decide to sacrifice sleep for leisure time.

A study from researchers in the Netherlands described bedtime procrastination in 2014 in Frontiers in Psychology. The concept spread like wildfire and eventually made its way to the United States in the summer of 2020, when writer Daphne K. Lee tweeted about it.

You’ve grasped the bedtime part. And it’s pretty clear you’re procrastinating sleeping. But where does revenge come in? The answer to that intrigues psychologists.

It seems people who do not have much control over their time during the day stay up at night to regain a sense of control and freedom. It’s a sort of subconscious form of revenge, if you will. Terry Cralle, a registered nurse and certified sleep expert with the Better Sleep Council, says sleep scientists are fascinated because what appears as a simple coincidence might have deeper psychological roots.

How do you know if you’re a revenge bedtime procrastinator?

You might be guilty of bedtime procrastination if you:

  • Suffer from a loss of sleep due to frequently delaying your bedtime
  • Delay your bedtime for no apparent reason
  • Continue to stay up past your bedtime despite knowing it could lead to negative consequences

Janelle Watson, a licensed marriage and family therapist and owner of Embrace Wellness, stresses that we shouldn’t confuse bedtime procrastination with staying up late to do work or to finish homework. Those are both reasons to push your bedtime back, but when you procrastinate sleep you don’t check items off your to-do list.

“The subconscious psychological goal of revenge bedtime procrastination is to take back control over your time,” says Watson. Bedtime and sleep procrastination tends to include activities that provide immediate enjoyment, such as watching Netflix, reading, talking to friends, or surfing the Internet.

phone-bed

The psychology behind revenge bedtime procrastination

Revenge bedtime procrastination is still an emerging concept in sleep science, and there are ongoing debates about the psychology behind this behavior. But the truth is, Americans aren’t getting enough sleep.

Although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that adults 18 and older get at least seven hours of sleep per night, a 2013 Gallup poll found that 56 percent of adults don’t get a full night’s sleep, and 43 percent said they would feel better if they got more sleep.

So why are some of us making a deliberate decision to fan the flames of our groggy mornings and sleepy workdays? According to Watson, the answer to that question is “at the root of revenge bedtime procrastination.”

Studies suggest that Americans’ time management has become increasingly complex for various reasons, including changing and unpredictable work schedules and gender, class, and race inequalities.

“Although work schedules are a huge contributing factor to revenge bedtime procrastination, some of my clients are also bogged down with tight schedules with their children, family, and other roles and responsibilities that take away from their ‘me’ time during the day,” Watson says.

Who is most likely to procrastinate going to bed?

Watson says that people who procrastinate when going to sleep typically want to get a full night’s rest but are not successful.

Sleep experts refer to this as an intention-behavior gap that is sometimes caused by self-control or self-regulation challenges. Self-control is typically at its lowest by the end of the day, making it easier to give in to the temptation of self-indulgence.

While most people have the best intentions when it comes to getting a full night’s sleep, studies show that you might be more likely to procrastinate going to bed at a reasonable hour if you:

  • Procrastinate in other areas of your life
  • Work a high-stress or an otherwise demanding job
  • Find yourself having to “resist desires” during the rest of your day
  • Work in an environment that requires your work life to intersect with your personal life or that does not allow you time to de-stress after work (like working from home)
  • Are a woman or a student

How to address revenge bedtime procrastination

If you think you might be a bedtime procrastinator, experts suggest seven ways to get to bed and start getting some much-needed rest:

  1. Be intentional about your rest. “If necessary, schedule your sleep by setting alarms, television timers, and other devices to alert you when your bedtime is near,” Watson says.
  2. When possible, begin winding down 30 minutes before your bedtime.
  3. Create a realistic bedtime goal that considers your daily schedule.
  4. Turn off all electronic devices and put any sources of distraction out of your reach after getting into bed.
  5. Practice relaxation strategies such as mindfulness and mediation.
  6. Get at the root cause of the issue by developing healthy coping strategies to handle your stress throughout the day.
  7. If all else fails, talk to a therapist.

Dr. Maia Niguel HoskinDr. Maia Niguel Hoskin                         Apr. 01, 2021

Sources

Janelle Watson, LMFT, owner of Embrace Wellness

Gallup: “In U.S., 40% Get Less Than Recommended Amount of Sleep”

Annual Review of Sociology: “Control Over Time: Employers, Workers, and Families Shaping Work Schedules”

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: “How Much Sleep Do I Need?”

Experimental Brain Research: “Alerting, orienting and executive control: the effects of sleep deprivation on attentional networks”

Frontiers in Neuroscience: “Bedtime Procrastination, Sleep-Related Behaviors, and Demographic Factors in an Online Survey on a Polish Sample”

Frontiers in Neuroscience: “Effect of Sleep Deprivation on the Working Memory-Related N2-P3 Components of the Event-Related Potential Waveform”

Frontiers in Psychology: “Bedtime procrastination: introducing a new area of procrastination”

Frontiers in Psychology: “Too Depleted to Turn In: The Relevance of End-of-the-Day Resource Depletion for Reducing Bedtime Procrastination”

Journal of the American Pharmacy Association: “How Do We Close The Intention-Behavior Gap?”

Journal of Affective Disorders: “Insomnia As A Predictor of Depression: A Meta-Analytic Evaluation of Longitudinal Epidemiological Studies”

Pew Research Center: “Defining generations: Where Millennials end and Generation Z begins”

Sleep Foundation: “What is ‘Revenge Bedtime Procrastination’?”

Frontiers in Psychology: “Commentary: Why Don’t You Go to Bed on Time? A Daily Diary Study on the Relationships Between Chronotype, Self-Control Resources and the Phenomenon of Bedtime Procrastination”

source: www.thehealthy.com


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Why We Procrastinate

Last minute taskers rejoice: psychological research proves that procrastinators are not necessarily lazy. Often, they are people who fear failure and rejection but don’t know the right strategies to reveal and conquer that fear.

Oh. Well that’s not much better than “lazy,” but at least we have a legitimate excuse.

One of the more obvious reasons why people procrastinate is to avoid doing something unpleasant. However, this is actually not as simple as it may sound. While some tasks are the embodiment of boredom, others may lead to procrastination because they scare you, on a subconscious level. Psychologists call this contributing factor to procrastination “fear of failure” and outline a few important dimensions. As a result, we can see that procrastination is not necessarily the product of laziness or lack of motivation. Deciphering the fear that lurks at the back of your mind is what really counts.

According to one of the most popular therapeutic approaches, called cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), we all have certain basic assumptions about ourselves, either positive or negative, known as core beliefs. Core beliefs are a part of the subconscious and start to form at a very young age, as soon as you are able to perceive yourself and the world. As you grow, your experiences and interactions with others, and how you internalize them all contribute to building and solidifying core beliefs. According to CBT, our thoughts, emotions and actions are the effect of these self-perceptions. Nonetheless, since they are buried deep in the subconscious mind, often we don’t realize what our core beliefs are unless we work toward understanding them.

Even when we know that fear of failure causes procrastination, that’s too broad of a concept. Apprehension may be brought about by a variety of core beliefs and so, in order to clean up the sticky mess that is procrastination, we need to look into some research-based triggers, behind that fear.

We Seek What We Believe

According to self-verification theory we behave in a way and connect to people who verify our own beliefs about ourselves. If those self-perceptions are positive, then we engage in productive behaviors and seek people who evaluate us positively. If, however, one’s self-beliefs are negative, then this becomes a steppingstone to procrastination. In short, we self-sabotage rather than engaging in productive work. That is why procrastinators tend to occupy themselves with meaningless tasks. Have you noticed how some people remember to clean out the fridge, binge-read all of their bookmarked articles and go on endless YouTube loops, just when they’ve got some less appealing chore to do? According to professor Joseph Ferrari, Ph.D., who has been studying procrastination for years, this self-handicap is the direct result of fear. Procrastinators swap out important tasks for futile activities because when you don’t engage in that something scary, there is no chance to fail at it. Thus, self-handicapping is a way to verify our own negative self-perceptions—we deprive ourselves of opportunities because of a deeply rooted belief that it is impossible to succeed.

Are You Good Enough?

How you perceive your own competence and ability to deal with a task on your own is also a contributing factor to fear of failure. Self-determination theory, which deals with people’s motivation, explains the importance of intrinsic incentives. When a person is keen to engage with a task because of internal stimuli, such as beliefs and needs, they become intensely invested. In contrast, motivation that comes from external sources is short-lived and inefficient. Feeling competent and autonomous builds intrinsic motivation and people are, therefore, less likely to procrastinate. On the other hand, when you doubt your own abilities and fear that you can’t handle the task on your own, you are more likely to put it off.

What Will Others Think?

Doubts about one’s self-worth may lead to an intensified need for the approval of others. If your core beliefs include a suspicion that you are not good enough and that you should continuously prove yourself to others, in order to feel deserving, this may contribute to fear of failure and therefore, procrastination. Fearing shame can lead to putting off a task, or even avoiding efforts to improve your skills. Often, the subconscious belief here is that the longer you dodge a task, the longer you’ll protect yourself from negative evaluations by others, as well as shame. On the other hand, procrastinators who fear shame, often strive for perfection, so that others view them as worthy and competent. In that way, if they feel they can achieve anything short of perfection, they put off a task for as long as possible.

What Can You Do About It?

As you can see, procrastination is not a simple behavioral problem. In fact, it can be viewed as a symptom of deeply rooted fear and self-doubt. Using CBT techniques on your own, or working with a therapist, can help you reveal your negative core beliefs and therefore understand what it is that you fear. Furthermore, you can benefit from the principles of self-regulation theory. Monitor your thoughts, emotions and behavior, see how they impact your tendency to procrastinate and experiment with different behavioral strategies to see what works best for your personal case.

Liya Panayotova is a clinical and counseling psychologist, 
with interests in the cognitive-behavioral sciences. 
Her experience includes working with anxiety, depression, difficult relationships, 
addiction, motivation, children, grief and many more.

 

By Liya Panayotova   March 24, 2017