The Unintended Consequences of Revenge Bedtime Procrastination on Health

Revenge bedtime procrastination has become a prevalent term in today’s fast-paced, high-stress world. 

The concept originates from the Chinese expression “bàofùxìng áoyè,” which refers to individuals sacrificing sleep to gain leisure time. Sleep Foundation explains that revenge bedtime procrastination is a way for people in high-stress jobs to find a few hours of entertainment despite insufficient sleep.

A viral tweet by journalist Daphne K. Lee in 2020 brought the term into the internet’s mainstream. A study in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health now suggests that those with a weaker future-time perspective may be more prone to revenge bedtime procrastination.

Linking the Future-Time Perspective 

Over 3,500 participants, aged 11 to 23, were enrolled in the study. They completed questionnaires measuring future-time perspective, self-control, impulsivity, problematic smartphone use, and bedtime procrastination. 

The findings revealed that higher problematic smartphone use correlated with greater revenge bedtime procrastination. Moreover, participants with stronger future-time perspectives demonstrated better self-control and a lower likelihood of engaging in revenge bedtime procrastination.

The researchers found that individuals who were more focused on the future had a higher expected value for long-term beneficial goals. They were more aware of the value of regular sleep for their health and function. By considering the potential link between current behaviour and distant outcomes, these participants could make the connection between the present and the future, prompting them to go to bed on time.

The Neuroscience Behind the Effect

Struggling with revenge bedtime procrastination doesn’t indicate a lack of ambition or concern for work. It can simply mean a poorer perspective of time, which might be the result of being neurodivergent. 

For instance, ADHD can cause poor impulse control and limited future thinking. Previous research has linked ADHD to poor time perception, which could explain the struggle to maintain a consistent sleep schedule.

Depression and Sleep

Depression can also distort time perception, causing individuals to feel time passes slowly and fixate on the past. 

This combination may contribute to revenge bedtime procrastination. 

In addition, the ongoing “chronic loneliness epidemic” could encourage people to seek leisure and human connection through social media, further contributing to revenge bedtime procrastination. 

The Vicious Cycle of Revenge Bedtime Procrastination and Mental Health

Sacrificing sleep for leisure time can create a vicious cycle of poor mental health and revenge bedtime procrastination. Cognitive scientist Laurie Renee Santos states that feeling free time is essential for wellbeing. 

However, many problems driving revenge bedtime procrastination, such as depression and burnout, can be alleviated by getting more sleep. Consequently, individuals may inadvertently harm their leisure time by not prioritising sleep.

The Role of Technology 

Technology, particularly smartphones, plays a significant role in exacerbating revenge bedtime procrastination. 

The constant access to social media, streaming services, and gaming platforms makes it difficult for individuals to resist the urge to stay up late. The blue light emitted from screens can also interfere with the body’s natural sleep-wake cycle, making it even harder to fall asleep.

Strategies to Combat Revenge Bedtime Procrastination

To break the cycle, it’s essential to implement strategies to improve sleep hygiene and manage mental health. Some effective methods include:

Establishing a consistent sleep schedule: Going to bed and waking up at the same time each day can help regulate the body’s internal clock.

Creating a bedtime routine: Engaging in relaxing activities, such as reading, meditation, or gentle stretching, can signal to the body that it’s time to sleep.

Limiting screen time before bed: Reducing exposure to screens at least an hour before bedtime can help the body prepare for sleep.

Setting boundaries with work: Maintaining a healthy work-life balance can prevent excessive stress and feelings of burnout.

Prioritising self-care: Allocating time during the day for leisure, hobbies, and social connections can decrease the need to sacrifice sleep for relaxation.

Seeking professional help: Speaking with a mental health professional can provide guidance and support.

Improving time management skills: Developing strategies for managing daily tasks can help make better use of available time.

The Impacts on Physical Health

Besides its effects on mental health, it can also have detrimental consequences on physical health. 

Chronic sleep deprivation is associated with a higher risk of obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and a weakened immune system. Moreover, insufficient sleep can impair cognitive function, memory, and decision-making abilities.

Understanding the importance of sleep and its impact on overall health can help individuals recognise the need to prioritise rest. 

By addressing the underlying issues, it is possible to break the cycle and improve one’s quality of life.


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