Revenge Bedtime Procrastination? That’s a problem for another day…

The other day I went onto my website for the first time in a few weeks to have a ‘quick look around’ and lo and behold, I discover it wasn’t working! I don’t think it has been working since December- but I don’t spend a lot of time ‘looking’ at my website, so I didn’t notice. After much faffing about, I finally figured out what was wrong (yay!) and managed to reconnect domain to provider and all is well… for the moment. I am sure a lot of you can recognise that sometimes, things aren’t as easy, or maybe enjoyable, as we think they are going to be and that they can take more time than we envisaged… which kind of ties into this blog post!

When writing my posts, I usually wait until I see an article, or study, that grabs my attention, but there have been quite a few lately; too many to choose from!  However, I’ve been reading a lot about Revenge Bed-time Procrastination (which I am going to shorten to RBP for ease) lately, and the effects it has on us. Ever heard of it? Maybe if I explain it, you may recognise it happening in your life. I know I have been guilty of it at times!

The idea behind RBP is that we are deliberately putting off sleep in favour of our own leisure activities; do you recognise scrolling through social media instead of sleeping, or just watching one more episode (or even season!) of your current favourite Netflix/Amazon/Disney/Hulu show?

By buying into RBP what we are effectively doing is giving ourselves some short-term enjoyment, but at the cost of our long-term life benefits (sleep, mood, but I will go into this later). RBP is especially likely when we have lots of daily responsibilities and busy schedules which prevent our enjoyment of what I like to call “me time” during the daytime. By delaying sleep for our gratification of entertainment and leisure, we are exacting “revenge” on all of life’s jobs, duties, accountabilities, and responsibilities.

Our sensibilities and logic tell us that this is an unhealthy habit to have, yet we persist with our RBPbehaviours, which can lead to guilt and shame for engaging in the RBP behaviour, health difficulties, low mood, a decrease in our overall productivity and poor sleep that can lead to exhaustion, grumpiness, and difficulties in our relationships.

So, if it isn’t depression, and it isn’t pressure or burnout, what else is it?  We’re not thriving or flourishing, we just seem to be flagging, stagnant but without a sense of hopelessness. The term RBP seems to have been made common knowledge around the 28th of June 2020, actual Tweet below, (while the original mention seems to come from a Chinese social media site in November 2018 with the Chinese word for RBP being ‘bàofùxìng áoyè’1)- slap bang in the middle of the pandemic (yes, we’re still talking about that, the effects of which will be affecting us all for many years to come) via a ‘simple tweet’

and as you can see from the comment below @daphnekylee’s tweet, but which I am not going to go into, there are an array of ‘revenge’ tactics we would appear to be doing since the pandemic began.

So, if we are now able to read about this via different platforms, what type of people are experiencing this difficulty? Well, people with busy, stressful lives and/or people who struggle with poor time-management. Interesting, the main demographic of people who experience RBP seems to be women. Why is this, you may ask? Well, it can be seen from studies2 that, as a demographic group, women lost significantly more personal time during the pandemic than men, as women took on a greater share of parenting and housework in comparison to men.

How unfair, I hear 50% of you cry! I agree, the division of labour is something that still needs to be addressed; as it remains societal norm that the mother is more likely to pick up sick kids from school, take time off to look after them, book appointments, work out what is for dinner and other domestic responsibilities.

Even if you are lucky within your relationship, and the division of labour in the home is 50/50, when it comes to work flexibility the impact of the expectations of line managers needs to be considered. The decision as to who will be the one to take time off is influenced by what is considered reasonable by the respective employers, and for many the old prejudices still hold.

We also must acknowledge the difficulties that the pandemic has also brought us, issues we were not expecting to happen, and certainly not in as much detail or focus as we are having to deal with them. There is a difficulty, for example, with the work-family balance, as I’ve mentioned briefly above. Mandatory working from home has possibly been the greatest social experiment in quite some time, and with that has come many difficulties, some of which we may have predicted. 

There can be a lack of boundaries, where we must work in our own homes, which can also impact us and increase the likelihood that we will engage in RBP. Sometimes it can feel like we are overwhelmed, and none more so than during the last two years. Some people are good at managing their time and ensuring that work does not bleed into family and home life. However, for many people, this isn’t something that is easy to do, be it because our office is in the kitchen or front room, or there are children being home schooled. By the time we have got through all of this, we’re probably quite tired and not really expecting to do anything enjoyable for ourselves.

Trying to reclaim our free time then marches on into the late evening and before we know it, we are engaging in the constant social media scroll or binging that TV series, RBP being too irresistible for us to avoid. Here3 there are some good tips on how to balance your work-family life, to help enable you to ensure you don’t get overwhelmed and have some firm boundaries in place.

As I mentioned earlier, there are some difficult, and quite serious, side-effects from experiencing poor and inadequate sleeping patterns. All these difficulties can have a serious impact on you and in your life. Just some of these difficulties we can experience with RBP are:

We can also experience an increase in depression, anxiety, and other mood disorders, which can then become debilitating for people who already experience anxiety, depression, or a mood disorder. A study4 conducted during the early months of lockdown in 2020 shows that to be busy is not necessarily sufficient to support an improvement in mood, but that the activity should also be meaningful. 

Meaningful activities help to regulate our psychological homeostasis- keeping our physiological and psychological need and drives in balance, creating a more harmonious environment. So, instead of doing a lot of busy activities, because that will make us feel good (which the study shows don’t necessarily happen!), engaging in some daily activities that we enjoy and give us a sense of meaning and purpose, can help to create, and maintain, a good mood for ourselves.

We can experience both a dysregulated metabolism and a weakened immune system which both impact on our overall physical health, and of course this can also impact are emotional health. We can also experience an increase in our mortality- having read a few studies, a meta-analysis5 that I found, which compared 16 studies and 27 independent cohort samples, found that not only is there a greater increase in the risk of death for people who have short durations to sleep, but longer duration’s of sleep were also associated with a greater risk of death. I think that second part is another blog post waiting to happen!

All of this sounds quite distressing, and RBP can spiral out of control, creating some very difficult situations in our life. So how do we fight RBP and what can we do to help ourselves get out of such a destructive pattern?

The good news is I that there are some practical things you can do to help mitigate the difficulties of RBP. As with most things to do with mental health and therapeutic models, there is no magic wand and so we must practice and put in place good bedtime practices. It also helps if we can try to reclaim some of our daytime hours for ourselves.

1).        If you find that you spent a lot of time ruminating, or focusing on your worries and difficulties, it can be very useful to write and sound in the journal or consider using a ‘worry book’ to support and help you stop to rumination. I have written a little bit about a worry book here which you can read or alternatively, you can look this up online, or you can send me an email and I can point you in the right direction.

2).        Trying to claw back some of those daytime hours that we have given away to other activities, schedules, work, chores, or people can also be a way to avoid the dreaded RBP. Prioritising yourself throughout the day, I’m putting yourself first, can help with those feelings of losing your free time. 

Quite often we put others first before ourselves which means that we deplete ourselves of energy throughout the day. By the time we get to the evening, we may be too tired to do any enjoyable activities; suddenly, it is time for bed, and we realise at this point, that we feel like we haven’t had any time to ourselves, and this is when the RBP kicks in.

Exercise can also help improve our general health and our quality of sleep. Therefore, it can be helpful to make sure you plan activities during the day that you enjoy and try to prioritise them, if you’ve done enjoyable things throughout the daytime, particularly activities that may be tiring, RBP is going to be a less attractive option than sleep.

3). Our sleep hygiene is more importance than we give credit to or realise. For those of you who are parents, and those of you who remember your own childhood, can you remember how important a bedtime routine was? As we got older our bedtime routines went out the window, particularly at the weekends when we wanted to stay up and have fun. 

A bedtime routine can help with good sleep hygiene, which is imperative to getting a good night’s sleep, so try to avoid those cosy naps during the daytime! Our body produces a chemical called Adenosine that is linked to sleepiness and the amount we have decreases as we sleep, yet whilst we are awake, the amount produced increases. So if we have that cosy afternoon nap, we are decreasing the amount of Adenosine in our body and possibly making it harder for us to go to sleep at night.

Good sleep hygiene can also include practising mindfulness, practising Breathwork, listening to an audiobook you’ve already heard and know the story of (this will help you to be less involved in the story and be able to switch off easier), and avoiding tv’s, mobiles, laptops, kindles etc. Yes, I know that they have the ‘night-time’ setting with the yellow light, not the blue light, but this also stimulates our brain, telling us it’s time to get up and do something.

A common myth is that our body clock, our circadian rhythm, is set by the time we go to sleep at night. Although the light and dark do control our circadian rhythms, sunlight helps to inform the body that it’s time to wake up. When it is dark, our body produces melatonin, which helps to make us sleepy. So, it can be helpful to set a regular getting up time and sticking to it, even on holidays and weekends! Missing just one day can affect our sleep, and this rhythm is something that we need to work on daily. I must add, it is ok to miss a day, a week of the same getting up time- holidays and lie-in’s can be soothing for the soul!

RBP seems to have gained in occurrence, or maybe just in reporting, over the pandemic and for many people, doesn’t appear to be easily dealt with. Above are some ideas to help with that, but even if you don’t want to try those ideas and are happy with your new hobby of RBP (is it new, or has it just got worse/been acknowledged, I wonder?), at least this post lets you know that you’re not the only one out there who is experiencing this. Good luck and sleep tight!



  1. https://zhuanlan.zhihu.com/p/50163285?utm_source=wechat_session&utm_medium=social&s_r=0accessed 02 February 2022
  2. Waddell N, Overall NC, Chang VT, Hammond MD. Gendered division of labor during a nationwide COVID-19 lockdown: Implications for relationship problems and satisfaction. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships. 2021;38(6):1759-1781. doi:10.1177/0265407521996476 https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/0265407521996476
  3. https://www.siop.org/Research-Publications/Items-of-Interest/ArtMID/19366/ArticleID/3454/Work-Family-Balance-Struggles-in-the-Time-of-COVID-19 accessed 1st February 2022
  4. Cohen DB, Luck M, Hormozaki A, Saling LL (2020) Increased meaningful activity while social distancing dampens affectivity; mere busyness heightens it: Implications for well-being during COVID-19. PLoS ONE 15(12): e0244631. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0244631 accessed 28th January 2022
  5. Francesco P. Cappuccio, MD, FRCP, Lanfranco D’Elia, MD, Pasquale Strazzullo, MD, Michelle A. Miller, PhD, Sleep Duration and All-Cause Mortality: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Prospective Studies, Sleep, Volume 33, Issue 5, May 2010, Pages 585–592, https://doi.org/10.1093/sleep/33.5.585

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