You’re exhausted. It’s been a big day, a long week, a busy month. Tonight, for the first time in forever, you have the forethought and discipline to take yourself to bed early because you deserve some rest! You get all tucked in. You grab your headphones and your book. You open up your phone to queue up a relaxing playlist…
Five hours later, it’s 2:30 am, and you’ve watched two episodes of Bridgerton and scrolled through TikTok so much that it told you to take a break not once but twice and you ignored it.
What’s wrong with you?!?! Sounds like revenge bedtime procrastination.
Revenge Bedtime Procrastination
Revenge bedtime procrastination is when you put off sleep in order to have time to yourself. It’s not the same thing as staying up late for social activities or homework. It’s when you quite literally delay sleeping, even when you’re tired, often already in bed, and feel (consciously or subconsciously) you haven’t had time to do what you want to do.
Delaying sleep is common among people with ADD or ADHD, students, parents, or folks with demanding jobs who have schedules that are packed with activities that have been decided for them by their responsibilities. You can crawl into bed on time with the best intentions and still somehow end up with inadequate sleep because… you just couldn't put down your phone, turn off the TV, stop reading your book, or resist working on that idea you had earlier.
It’s your brain’s attempt to regain some control over your day, even if it means losing sleep.
Why is Bedtime Revenge Procrastinating a Big Deal?
The reason this habit is so bad for you = sleep deprivation. We all fall prey to a little late-night scrolling now and then, but if you’re engaging in this behavior every night over the long term, you’re looking at some pretty serious health consequences.
Lack of sleep can result in symptoms of depression, anxiety, difficulty focusing or performing well at work or school, weakened immune system, weight gain, poor memory, headaches, and even blood pressure or heart problems. Poor sleep is also associated with “brain fog” and a lower tolerance for stress. There is even some evidence that losing sleep can cause mental health problems like Major Depressive Disorder, anxiety disorders, and Bipolar Disorder.
Once you’re caught in a cycle of not getting enough sleep, it’s hard to break out. Your brain and body are tired, so tired that your judgment, decision-making, and dopamine-seeking faculties are out of whack. It’s no wonder that you keep doom-scrolling until the wee hours of the morning, but that means it’s more important than ever to change things up. Keep reading for tips on how to fix revenge bedtime procrastination.
How to Stop Delaying Sleep
Get serious about your sleep hygiene, and don’t ignore the mental health element of your poor sleep habits.
- Set aside time during your day for you. Make sure that there is, at least, a little bit of time every day where you do whatever you want to do. If that’s scrolling through Instagram, fine. If that’s going on a run with your dog, great. If that’s taking a nap in your car between school and the soccer game, even better. It's your time.
- Reconnect with your values–does the way you’re spending your time reflect them? What’s keeping you so busy? Are all of the activities in your packed schedule really worth your time? Consider cutting back on commitments or habits that don’t actually reflect who you are or who you want to be. Doing so may help you feel less stretched thin at the end of each day.
- Develop an enjoyable bedtime routine. Whether you use an app or write it down on an index card, seriously, codify a routine for yourself. List out 3-5+ things that you will do every night before bed. These tasks could be anything: calling your best friend for a few minutes, changing into soft pajamas, washing your face, taking an Epsom salt bath, reading a good book, stretching, having a cup of herbal tea, going over your planner for tomorrow, writing in a journal, etc. As long as the routine is relaxing and helps you feel like your day is drawing to a nice conclusion, your routine can look however you want it to.
- Follow a consistent sleep schedule as best you can. Figure out how much sleep you need–for people between 13 and 18 years old, it’s 8-10 hours per day. If you know what time you have to get up on a given morning, calculate a bedtime that’s at least 8 hours before that. Start your bedtime routine (the one you’re going to build) early enough that you're in bed with the lights off and your eyes closed at that 8-hour mark.
- Make your environment an awesome place to sleep. Sleep environment is a huge factor in getting good rest. If you’re trying to sleep with crime shows in the background and leaving all the lights on, no wonder you’re not going to bed. Create a space that makes you feel cozy, safe, and sleepy.
- Consider talking to a mental health professional. If you implement some sleep hygiene practices but still find that you’re having trouble sleeping, there are a number of reasons why that could be. A licensed professional can help you figure out if your sleep challenges are something you can work on or if you may need to see a doctor about a possible sleep disorder. In some cases, a prescription for a sleep study might be necessary, and there’s even medicine that can help your body understand that it’s time for bed.
- Turn off your devices. This one is hard…. Our phones and computers have so much great stuff on them, and it feels cruel to cut ourselves off from puzzle games, music apps, social media, streaming, or whatever it is that you find yourself wanting to do when you’re finally done for the day. But screen time negatively impacts our ability to sleep. It just does. Your phone will still be there tomorrow. Let it have a break.
Rest as a Sacred Practice
“So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.” –Genesis 2:3 (ESV)
“And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep.” –Matthew 8:24 (ESV)
“Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” –Mark 6:31
Rest is so important that it literally shows up in the second chapter of the entire Bible. Rest shows up in the Ten Commandments when the Israelites are told to “honor the Sabbath.” The concept of the Sabbath is two-fold. On the one hand, it’s supposed to be a day set aside for worshiping God. On the other hand, it’s a day when you DO NOT WORK. Even Jesus rested, prioritized sleep, and observed the Sabbath no matter how chaotic life got. Examining how you could prioritize rest, or even practice your own version of a Sabbath, isn’t just “self-care.” It should be a priority for anyone who believes that God and Jesus knew what they were doing.
If you find yourself resisting rest because you crave more time for yourself or relaxation, that’s a sure sign that you’re in desperate need of a Sabbath practice. Consider setting aside one day of every week, or if you’re just THAT busy, an hour or two. Use that day or hour for true rest and relaxation, even if you haven’t gotten all your homework done, finished cleaning your room, or texted that one friend back. Those things can wait, and you’ll be in better shape to do them well once you’ve rested. Keeping your Sabbath religiously might just help you feel less strained at the end of the day so that you can cut out the scrolling and catch some real z’s.
Consider bringing prayer or journaling into your bedtime routine each evening, too. You can pour your heart and thoughts out to Jesus, asking Him to help you rest even though you’re feeling overwhelmed or tempted to reach for your phone. If you need more ideas on how to build better sleep habits for your mental health, you can also chat with one of our Hope Coaches. They’ll always listen without judgment and help you find resources to facilitate your growth.
Now… put down your phone and close your eyes.
For real. All of the above can wait until tomorrow.
- Cara Beth
Do you struggle with perfectionism? Read my blog on ways perfectionism is standing in the way of your goals and how to overcome perfectionism.