It doesn’t matter how tiring my day has been—I always go to sleep later than midnight. Even if I absolutely have nothing important to do, such as draft an article in advance or do research, which can be deemed as a valid reason for staying up until the wee hours of the night, I always find an excuse not to hit the sack as early as possible. I’ve always thought that this was just because the drama I’ve been watching is just that enticing, or because I just have to know how this book I’m reading is going to end, but it apparently goes way beyond that.
Last week, I came across a tweet that talked about the phenomenon of refusing to sleep early, which led me to research about it. Meet “bedtime procrastination.”
Learned a very relatable term today: “報復性熬夜” (revenge bedtime procrastination), a phenomenon in which people who don’t have much control over their daytime life refuse to sleep early in order to regain some sense of freedom during late night hours.
— Daphne K. Lee (@daphnekylee) June 28, 2020
A psychological research from 2014 about bedtime procrastination describes it as “going to bed later than intended while no external circumstances are accountable for doing so.” It also says that this phenomenon is associated with general procrastination and self-regulation.
“Bedtime procrastination is a problem that is particularly likely to occur in a state where people have little mental energy, or self-control strength because the decision to go to bed is inherently made at the end of the day when self-control is typically weaker,” notes the study as well.
Another study from 2018 also found that many bedtime procrastinators delay their bedtimes after tiring or stressful days to do activities that help them unwind.
“Thus, bedtime procrastination may serve as a form of short-term mood repair: after a long and stressful day, people want to watch a movie, play video games or engage in other leisure activities because doing so makes them feel good,” notes the study.
Neurologist and sleep medicine doctor W. Christopher Winter, M.D. also says that two groups of people who may be prone to bedtime procrastination are those who “don’t feel like they ever have time for themselves” and those who are high achievers.
Personally, that gave me an explanation as to why I find myself saying “one more episode” at 3 a.m. no matter what. A day doesn’t feel complete without getting to have some “me time,” and sometimes, that’s only possible when there are no more work-related and household chores to do—aka at past midnight.
It’s not that you don’t want to sleep, but more like you don’t want to stop doing other (mostly leisure-related) activities. It may be a modern phenomenon due to technology as well, especially with social media and the internet making it easier for you to fall into a rabbit hole of things “to do.”
While you now know that this phenomenon is actually real, it still doesn’t change the fact that it is very destructive. Getting insufficient sleep is related to concentration and memory problems. It also puts you at risk of serious medical conditions, including obesity, heart disease and diabetes. Try some of our tips on sleeping better and faster or use these apps to help you doze off.
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