Revenge Bedtime Procrastination


You may have engaged in a form of bedtime procrastination at some point. Perhaps you needed alone time, and late at night was the only option available.

While sleep procrastination may seem appealing in the moment, it can lead to sleep deprivation and negative consequences. We examine what causes bedtime procrastination and share strategies for getting your sleep schedule back on track.

What Is Bedtime Procrastination?

Bedtime procrastination means delaying when you go to bed, despite not experiencing any sleep barriers such as a sleep disorder or late work schedule.

A related term, translated as revenge bedtime procrastination, rose to popularity in 2020 following a tweet by Daphne K. Lee. Lee describes revenge bedtime procrastination as delaying bedtime specifically for the purpose of regaining time for yourself.

Signs You May Be a Revenge Bedtime Procrastinator

Revenge bedtime procrastination encompasses a host of activities that prevent us from going to sleep. It may take the form of binge-watching a streaming series, voluntarily catching up on work, phoning a friend, doing an extra load of laundry, or doing anything that prevents you from going to sleep when you theoretically could. If you have ever fought off the voice in your head telling you to go to bed, you have probably engaged in revenge bedtime procrastination.

In addition to bedtime procrastination, which involves pushing back the time when you physically get into bed, researchers have also proposed another type of procrastination called while-in-bed procrastination. This form of procrastination involves in-bed activities, like scrolling through your phone or listening to music, which put off the moment when you actually fall asleep.

The Psychology Behind Revenge Bedtime Procrastination

Procrastination involves purposely postponing something you plan on doing, even though you know it would be better to do it right away. Plenty of people fit the criteria for bedtime procrastination, which involves delaying bedtime seemingly without reason, even though it may cause issues the next day.

In one study, researchers asked people why they engaged in bedtime procrastination. Three main themes emerged:

  • Deliberate Procrastination: Many people see late-night awake time as a reward at the end of the day, or necessary alone time that helps them relax and unwind.
  • Mindless Procrastion: People become so engrossed in an activity that they lose track of time.
  • Strategic Delay: Individuals put off bedtime because they are afraid they will not fall asleep easily if they go to bed too early. This type of procrastination may be a sign of insomnia.

Another study proposed that bedtime procrastination might arise because the thought of getting ready for bed — brushing teeth, putting on pajamas, removing contact lenses — can be tiring in and of itself. This form of procrastination can turn into a vicious cycle because the more you resist bedtime, the more tired you become and the less willpower you have to begin getting ready for bed.

Risk Factors for Bedtime Procrastination

Bedtime procrastination likely arises as a result of personal traits mixed with environmental cues. Certain factors may make people more likely to engage in bedtime procrastination.

Lack of Self-Regulation

Research suggests that people may be more likely to engage in bedtime procrastination if they generally have poor self-regulation skills and if they tend to procrastinate in other areas of their life.

Additionally, researchers of one study found that people were more likely to engage in bedtime procrastination if they had already resisted multiple desires during the day. Similarly, people who view willpower as something that can be depleted are more likely to resort to bedtime procrastination when they are stressed.


Chronotype refers to an individual’s natural tendency to go to sleep and wake up at certain times. We generally think of this as being a night owl or an early bird. Most research so far suggests that bedtime procrastination is linked to a general preference for being an evening person, though more research is needed.

People with an evening chronotype may be more likely to engage in bedtime procrastination because they simply find it harder to fall asleep early. The authors of one study noted that bedtime procrastination lessened as the work week advanced, implying that as people became progressively more tired, their natural bedtime shifted earlier.

Tying together the self-regulation and the chronotype theories, some researchers have proposed that maybe people with later chronotypes have a more difficult time adapting to societal timetables and experience more pressure on their self-control as a result.

Other Risk Factors

Preliminary research suggests females, students, and people who frequently watch TV or use their smartphones in the evening are more likely to engage in bedtime procrastination. Being male, eating dinner earlier, and not wanting an early sleep time may be risk factors for while-in-bed procrastination.

People are more likely to engage in bedtime procrastination if they do not perceive sleep to be important. Bedtime procrastination is also associated with depression, anxiety, and insomnia.

Consequences of Bedtime Procrastination

Bedtime procrastination affects sleep quality and is linked to insufficient sleep. Poor sleep can lead to fatigue, sleepiness, and decreased daytime motivation. Sleep deprivation also interferes with mood regulation and academic or work performance.

Chronic sleep deprivation is linked to a higher chance of obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and other diseases. For teens, sleep deprivation leads to a higher chance of engaging in high-risk behaviors, using drugs and alcohol, and being involved in car crashes.

Preventing Sleep Procrastination

Unfortunately, after a long, stressful day at work, it can be hard to force yourself to prepare for sleep at night. Making sleep a priority and maintaining consistent bedtimes and wake times can make it easier to keep these habits on days when you are tired or lacking in willpower.

One strategy is to use implementation intentions, or preset plans that are easy to put into action following a cue. For example, you could visualize an intention of changing into pajamas and going through your bedtime routine at a specific time. Then, when the clock strikes the set time, that could cue you to carry out the process in real life. Implementation intentions have been shown to improve sleep habits and lead to better sleep quality.

If your internal clock does not align with your work schedule, you can also use cues to train your body to sleep when needed. The most important cues involve getting plenty of bright light during the day and avoiding exposure to blue light — including smartphones and TV screens — in the evening and nighttime.

Tips for Better Sleep

Certain lifestyle habits can help prepare your body for sleep and reinforce the mental association between bed and sleep:

  • Reserving the bedroom for sleep and sex only
  • Avoiding vigorous exercise and heavy meals close to bedtime
  • Avoiding caffeine in the afternoon and evening
  • Leaving the bedroom if you cannot fall asleep and doing a low-key activity in another room until you feel sleepy again

Talk to your doctor if you are still having trouble falling asleep despite maintaining healthy sleep hygiene. You may have insomnia or another sleep disorder that requires more specific treatment.


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