Are you someone who constantly pushes back bedtime after a tough, busy day just to carve out some personal time? Well, you might just be guilty of bedtime procrastination - a fascinating yet tricky habit that psychologists have extensively studied lately. In this article, we'll dive into the concept of procrastination and its correlation with delaying bedtime.

Revenge sleep procrastination is that urge to stay up late, driven by a burning desire to catch up on tasks or unwind after a busy day. Sounds familiar, right? But here's the catch: while it feels like you're reclaiming precious 'me' time, it often means sacrificing sleep and your overall well-being in the long run.

alarm clock at 10:10

What is bedtime procrastination?

Today's fast-paced digital age keeps us busy; there's always one more episode to watch, another text to answer, and a few more social media apps to check. With endless entertainment options, constant communication, and various social media platforms demanding our time, we often struggle to prioritize self-care, including getting enough sleep.

The idea of sleep procrastination was used for the first time in a scientific article in 2014, by a team of researchers from Utrecht University. They were talking about the behavior of going to bed later than you intended, in the absence of other circumstances that would prevent sleep.

The term revenge sleep procrastination thus refers to that time when you put off going to sleep because you're stressed or just don't have free time to relax during the day. And guess what? Your phone might be to blame! People who procrastinate before bed spend around 80 minutes on their phones, while those who don't procrastinate only spend 18 minutes. Interesting, right?

Sleep is as important as eating well and staying active, but we often forget how much it can help us feel good both physically and mentally!

woman in white robe sitting on chair

What are the behaviors linked to revenge sleep procrastination?

According to the Sleep Foundation, sleep procrastination is characterized by three aspects:

  • A delay in bedtime that reduces the total duration of sleep;
  • The absence of a valid reason why the person stays awake longer than they intended; for example, an illness, an event, or other factors that keep them awake;
  • Awareness of the fact that delaying bedtime could have negative consequences.

Revenge bedtime procrastination it's not just about staying up late – it can also mean putting off sleep while already in bed, often by scrolling through phones or binge-watching TV. Plus, it's often linked with putting off other tasks like homework or house chores. In short, it's about trying to squeeze in some personal time, even if it means skimping on sleep.

Revenge bedtime procrastination can thus take many forms. Either you put off going to sleep and try to complete your to-do list last minute or you are already in bed, but postpone sleep, because most of the time you spend this time using electronic devices (phone, tablet, TV).

Here are a few reasons why we postpone bedtime

Why do we delay bedtime, even if it means feeling groggy and tired the next morning? Well, it's often because our days are jam-packed with work, household chores, and taking care of the family. There's hardly any time left for ourselves, for doing things that relax us and bring us joy, like catching up with friends, watching a movie, or getting lost in a good book.

A study from the Netherlands in 2018 found that people tend to procrastinate at bedtime more when they have a lot of things they don't enjoy doing during the day. It's like we're trying to make up for lost time by staying up late at night.

grátis Foto profissional grátis de aparelho, atenção, barbado Foto profissional

What does science say about revenge sleep procrastination?

An explanation that sleep researchers give for revenge bedtime procrastination is that at the end of the day, our ability to self-control and self-regulate decreases greatly. In addition, some people are even more inclined to procrastinate in general, not just when it comes to sleep.

Another explanation that specialists offer for sleep procrastination is that this tendency is more specific to "night owls", i.e. people with a nocturnal chronotype.

Studies show that women and students tend to postpone bedtime more frequently; as well as people with a nocturnal biorhythm and those who tend to procrastinate in other aspects of their lives.

Also, the changes that the pandemic has brought into our lifestyle have contributed to an increase in the frequency of revenge bedtime procrastination. Working from home often leads to an imbalance between professional and personal life, with the extension of working hours and, implicitly, the need to recover in time for personal needs. This happens much more frequently in the case of women, studies show.

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The truth about bedtime procrastination

Even if bedtime procrastination is tempting and gives the illusion of saving time, it only shortens the duration of sleep. Late nights, followed by early mornings, can directly lead to sleep deprivation and sleep disorders. To enjoy all the benefits of a good night's rest, it is important to consider:

  • Sleep duration -aim for 7-9 hours per night
  • Sleep quality - without interruptions, falling asleep easily.

Over time, revenge bedtime procrastination can really take a toll on your mental, physical, and emotional well-being, both in the short and long run. Just like eating, drinking water, and breathing, getting enough sleep is crucial for our overall health and functioning.

Sleep is like a reset button for your body and brain. It helps your body recover and your brain sort through memories and information, so you can perform your best the next day. Serious sleep deprivation increases daytime sleepiness, which can affect how productive and focused you are.

Here's how to stop revenge bedtime procrastination

To stop revenge bedtime procrastination, it is crucial to first, create a daily schedule that will fit your needs, and secondly, to establish good sleep habits.

woman sitting on white bed while stretching

Create a robust daily schedule

The root of bedtime procrastination is most often the lack of a clear routine during the day. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Plan time for yourself, as you would prioritize other important activities in a busy schedule - if we do not put relaxation or fun activities on the list of important things, there are little chances to do them;
  • Establish firm boundaries between personal and professional life, especially if you are working from home;
  • Take breaks during the day from everything that keeps you busy - breaks in which to do a little of the things you usually do at night, to recover from the day that has ended.

Check out this article on how to create a routine and stick to it.

person writing on a book

Make sure you have good sleep hygiene

  • If you are an adult, aim to sleep between 7-9 hours per night. It is a general recommendation because everyone is different and has individual needs. As much as possible, try to have a constant sleep schedule; that is, going to bed and waking up at the same time, including on weekends. Keeping a consistent bedtime will reduce the urge to go to bed late.
  • It's important to set the right scene for sleep. Keep your bedroom dark and free from distractions like TVs. Reserve your bed for sleep and, well, you know, intimate times. Avoid working, eating, or watching movies in bed. Thus, the brain will link the bedroom, and specifically the bed, exclusively with these two activities. As a result, it will be quicker to transition into sleep mode upon entering the bedroom, reducing bedtime procrastination.
  • Relaxation techniques, mindfulness, and breathing exercises help a lot. When practiced frequently and introduced into the bedtime routine, they can reduce the level of anxiety and thoughts/worries that keep you from going to sleep. Some relaxing and calming activities can be: reading a book; meditation, a massage; a bath; gentle stretches, diffusion of scented oils in the room, etc.
  • Physical activity has a beneficial effect on sleep, as well as on mental health in general. Experts suggest aiming for at least 30 minutes of physical activity each day.

Say no to unhealthy habits before sleep

  • Spending too much time on social media can mess with your sleep. Try to limit screen time (phones, laptops, TVs) to just 1-2 hours before bed. The blue light from screens messes with melatonin, the sleep hormone, making it harder to drift off.
  • To avoid not being able to fall asleep at the set time and to cultivate good sleep habits, it's a good idea to cut back on caffeine in the afternoon and evening. So, steer clear of coffee, black or green tea, and any other caffeinated drinks as bedtime approaches.
  • Drinking alcohol before sleep doesn't help either. Even if there is a popular belief that alcohol helps you fall asleep more easily, this is not true. Alcohol calms you down at first and it will promote sleep, but its effect wears off after a few hours, the sleep is superficial and with frequent awakenings.
  • It's best to avoid smoking before bed - since nicotine can stimulate your heart and brain, making it harder to wind down.

Final thoughts

When tackling revenge bedtime procrastination, prevention is key. Figure out what inspires you to make a positive change. After all, bedtime procrastination wouldn't happen if it didn't offer some bonuses, like catching up on TV or enjoying a moment of peace.

However, getting too little sleep can take a toll on your physical health, upping the chances of problems like heart issues or metabolic diseases like diabetes. It's crucial to be honest with yourself about the pros and cons of delaying bedtime and how you'll feel the following day!

As a coach, many clients ask me how to overcome sleep procrastination. I always advise them to set realistic goals. For instance, if you recognize that you need to be in bed by 11:00 PM to feel refreshed in the morning, setting the goal of going to bed at 11:00 PM every night might be overly ambitious if you're accustomed to going to bed at 1:00 AM. Begin by gradually shifting your bedtime later by 15 or 30 minutes. If you find success with this adjustment, continue to build upon it.

If you're using our accountability app, your coach can offer customized tips and various strategies to assist you in creating a better nighttime routine and tackling any issues related to bedtime procrastination. And if you are new to GoalsWon, here is the link to our free trial!

FAQ about revenge bedtime procrastination

What is revenge bedtime procrastination a symptom of?

Revenge bedtime procrastination is a sign of poor sleep hygiene and a lack of a clear daily schedule. The more things we have to do that we don't enjoy during the day, the more likely we are to reclaim this time during the night and postpone sleep.

How do I fix my revenge sleep procrastination?

To fix revenge sleep procrastination one must set clear boundaries and cultivate good sleep habits. Instead of using electronic devices before sleep, practice relaxation techniques, read a book, or meditate.

What is the psychology behind revenge bedtime?

An explanation that psychologists give for revenge bedtime procrastination is that at the end of the day, our ability to self-control and self-regulate decreases greatly, thus increasing the risk of postponing sleep.

Some questions to reflect upon

Here are some questions you may want to reflect upon if you are looking to improve your sleep quality:

  • What are your current sleep habits and routines? Are you satisfied with them, or do you feel there's room for improvement?
  • Do you find yourself procrastinating when it comes to bedtime? If so, what are the main factors contributing to this procrastination?
  • How do you feel upon waking up in the morning? Are you well-rested and ready to tackle the day, or do you often feel fatigued and groggy?


Kroese, Floor & Evers, Catharine & Adriaanse, Marieke & Ridder, Denise. (2014). Bedtime procrastination: A self-regulation perspective on sleep insufficiency in the general population. Journal of Health Psychology. 21. 10.1177/1359105314540014.

Kroese, Floor & Adriaanse, Marieke & Evers, Catharine & Anderson, Joel & Ridder, Denise. (2018). Commentary: Why Don't You Go to Bed on Time? A Daily Diary Study on the Relationships Between Chronotype, Self-Control Resources and the Phenomenon of Bedtime Procrastination. Frontiers in Psychology. 9. 10.3389/fpsyg.2018.00915.