Lack of little control over your daytime activities could lead to these late-night endeavours. By SAMANTHA FRANCIS.
Have you been staying up way past your bedtime just to squeeze in an episode or two of your favourite Netflix series? Laid in bed until the wee hours, just mindlessly scrolling through your social media feed? Or perhaps gone down the rabbit hole of researching a random topic under the guise of productivity? There’s a name for this phenomenon and no, it’s not just “night owl”.
The term “bedtime procrastination” was birthed from a 2014 study from the Netherlands, which highlighted the problematic trend of procrastination and its harmful effects on our health. Later, the “revenge” prefix originated in China in the late 2010s, referencing the unhealthy 73-hour work week many white-collar workers were subjected to. Finally, journalist Daphne L. Lee defined it on Twitter as “a phenomenon in which people who don’t have much control over their daytime life refuse to sleep early to regain some sense of freedom during late night hours.”
In essence, this phenomenon refers to the bad habit of staying up late to enjoy leisure pursuits at the expense of rest. With the ongoing pandemic, lines are gradually blurring between work and play thanks to the new normal of working from home. As such, it’s no surprise to see many of us replying to emails all the way till midnight or God forbid, having Zoom meetings that are scheduled after dinner. This naturally leaves us with a lot less time for relaxation and activities that soothe our bodies and minds.
A recent study showed that 40 percent of adults had increased trouble sleeping during the pandemic, possibly due to irregular work schedules and heightened stress. As such, choosing to stay up late offers a semblance of control over their lives—a stark contrast to structured daytime activities.
According to Ramiz Fargo, medical director for the Loma Linda University Sleep Disorder Centre, says that activities chosen for revenge bedtime procrastination tend to be easy things like “Swiping through your phone, watching television, or catching up on reading.” So, what’s the reason behind this behaviour? At a glance, it seems like a result of bad time management and a lack of self-control. But according to psychology research in the field of sleep science, those who engage in bedtime procrastination know the importance of sleep and want enough rest, but somehow fail to do so. Termed as intention-behaviour gap, this behaviour often points to a lack of self-regulation.
By the end of the day, we may already be exhausted, with a low capacity for self-control. This makes it much easier for us to succumb to procrastination activities. What’s a good way to cope then? Experts say that the root cause of bedtime procrastination is a lack of free time during the day. If work and life feel overwhelming, perhaps it’s time to evaluate your workload and responsibilities, allowing yourself some ample time to rest and relax without guilt. Carve out time by scheduling for rest in your busy calendar, whether it’s a designated break or annual leave from work. Alternatively, plan for short periods of rest throughout your day, even if it’s a quick walk out to grab a coffee or a stretch at your desk.
When evening comes around, prioritise good sleep hygiene by staying away from screen time and avoiding vigorous exercise. Find a pre-sleep ritual that leaves you in a calm mood, such as a cup of non-caffeinated beverage or a warm bath.