Revenge bedtime procrastination: Why do we stay awake even when were tired?

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Revenge bedtime procrastination is a new term for when you stay awake on your phone or watch TV even when you feel tired. The term is thought to have been coined in China but popularised on social media apps like TikTok in recent weeks. Express.co.uk chatted to sleep expert at Emma – The Sleep Company, Dr Verena Senn, to find out everything you need to know about revenge bedtime procrastination.

Revenge bedtime procrastination is something most of us do, but there hasn’t been much discussion about it in the past.

The new social media phrase describes the act of encroaching on time that should be spent sleeping and delaying bedtime with leisure activities.

For many, especially during lockdown, this may be scrolling for hours on TikTok, reorganising your entire wardrobe, or binge-watching videos of funny animals until 4am (we’ve all been there).

But why do we do this to ourselves and how do we stop? Dr Senn has explained the psychology behind it.

The last year of lockdown and working from home has left many unable to find moments for themselves.

Dr Senn says the time before bed becomes ‘me’ time and that’s why people partake in revenge bedtime procrastination.

The sleep expert explained: “Often people cite lacking time in the day to do the things they want as the reason for their revenge bedtime procrastination.

“For those who feel their daytime is consumed by their busy schedules, it’s all about taking back control of their own time, even at the expense of sleep.

“Because we feel we haven’t had adequate time for ourselves in our days, and even though we may feel exceedingly tired, we still engage in behaviours that prevent us from falling asleep; this is referred to as the intention-behaviour gap.”

The National Sleep Foundation recommends seven to nine hours a night for adults between 18 to 64 years, and if you’re staying up too late you probably aren’t hitting this target.

Dr Senn said: “Regularly sacrificing this sleep time can be really damaging, both to physical and mental health.

“While you may feel you’re claiming back your free time, in fact all you’re really doing is building up sleep debt (what we call the difference between the amount of sleep we need and the amount we actually get).

“Unlike a loan you can’t pay this debt back by, for instance, sleeping in on a Sunday.”

Sleep is one of the key pillars of health but we don’t often give it the same attention as diet and exercise, according to the sleep expert.

Dr Senn added: “Sleep deprivation causes mood changes which may leave you feeling more irritable or sad and make it much harder for our brain to absorb and process information leading to poor memory and concentration.

“Sleep deprivation even suppresses the immune system and can put you at a higher risk of many diseases.”

The first step to breaking the revenge bedtime procrastination is recognising the problem!

Dr Senn said: “If you’re noticing patterns in your behaviour before bed that result in you not getting enough sleep, and you’re feeling tired as a result, then it may be time to rethink why you’re procrastinating.

“Could there be anything in your schedule or the stresses in your day that are triggering?”

Sleep hygiene refers to a set of behavioural and environmental recommendations used to promote sleep and Dr Senn stressed how important it is to get enough sleep.

She said: “Easy steps to take could be things like avoiding caffeine – especially in the afternoons, keeping your bedroom dark and keeping away from screens at least an hour before you sleep.

“It may also be a good idea to be exercising for 30 minutes a day but not two to three hours before bedtime and making sure you’ve got a healthy and varied diet.”

Sticking to a sleep schedule is a great foundation but it’s also important to make sure you’re winding down in the evening.

Dr Senn said: “A few ways to do this could be through having a hot bath, reading a book, or some meditation.

“Try thinking of these sleep hygiene practices a part of your ‘me time’ rather than another chore in your already busy schedule – otherwise they’re likely to become just another part of your day you’ll feel you need “revenge” on.

“This may be tricky but tailor the activity to what works best for you – habits are easier to keep if they bring you joy – consistency is key when it comes to our sleep!”

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