8 Daytime Habits To Save Yourself From Revenge Bedtime Procrastination and Assert Control

Photo: Getty Images/Oscar Wong
Revenge bedtime procrastination, the phenomenon of putting off going to bed in order to assert some agency over your schedule and squeeze in some me-time after having spent the bulk of it doing something mandatory, can mean different things to different people. Maybe to you it's telling Netflix that you indeed are still watching at 2 a.m. on a Wednesday, or it's online shopping during your baby's nap time even though you could be getting some much needed REM yourself, or it's planning your hypothetical dream vacation, despite needing to wake up for work in a few short hours.

In an ideal world, me-time wouldn't need to interfere or compete with sleep, and vice versa, but here we are. Since so many have trouble conking out on their revenge bedtime procrastination habits—and lack of sleep doesn't do your health any favors—are there other ways to go about fixing the problem?

Experts In This Article

Considering that the leading motivation that guides revenge sleep procrastination is to assert a sense of control, why not work to shift certain waking-hours habits accordingly? Below, find eight simple strategies to help you reclaim control of your day so you feel no need take revenge on your bedtime by procrastinating on it.

Not sure how to stop sleep procrastination from getting the best of you? Here find 8 tips for asserting control over you schedule during the day.

1. Identify time-wasters in your day

Being honest with ourselves about our own specific time-wasters helps us identify and eliminate them, which gives us more room in our day and more control over our time. “Look at the whole day and identify areas where you're losing time doing things that are non-restorative,” says Janet Kennedy, PhD, clinical psychologist and founder of NYC Sleep Doctor.

“Look at the whole day and identify areas where you're losing time doing things that are non-restorative.” —Janet Kennedy, PhD, clinical psychologist

For example, if you’re spending a lot of time on social media but don't feel the habit adds value or joy to your life, consider using a timer when you scroll to help you set boundaries, or simply unplug completely for certain parts of the day.

2. Be mindful of caffeine and alcohol intake

Caffeine and alcohol can contribute to sleep disruption…depending on when you consume them. For caffeine, keep in mind that different folks metabolize caffeine at different rates, so some may be able to sleep well after having post-dinner espresso, but others may need to institute a caffeine cutoff time of noon. Pay attention to your body's cues, and adjust accordingly. Furthermore, experts suggest that to help you wake up feeling as fresh as possible as you start your day, you should drink water—not coffee—first thing.

Alcohol can also sabotage our ability to go to bed, fall asleep, and stay asleep, because alcohol can disrupt your circadian rhythm, meaning that even if it helps you fall asleep, it won't do you any favors in the staying asleep department. So, although a nightcap or glass of wine may help you wind down and relax, they also may make the notion of sleeping well after a distant dream.

3. Strengthen professional boundaries

Not even the most meticulously followed nighttime routine will be effective if you don’t feel like you have freedom during your daytime hours. If work absorbs a large portion of your day, taking control can look like creating effective boundaries. Ask yourself if there is an opportunity when you can unplug for a break or stop working at a reasonable time. “I often ask my clients when they think it would be reasonable to be unavailable,” says Dr. Kennedy. “What happens if they turned off alerts and learn how to sit with the discomfort of not checking?”

4. Do nighttime activities during the day

Start carving out intentional downtime in your calendar a few days a week to do the things that relax and restore you. You can use that time to read, take a walk, meditate, cook, listen to music or do whatever re-engages and re-energizes you. Giving yourself the time to do the self-care activities you typically relegate to the late-night hours might even lead you to perform them more mindfully.

5. Exercise

Movement throughout the day can lead to better sleep at night. It can also help folks reclaim some personal agency if they feel as though they're constantly serving others' needs, which may in turn reduce the "revenge" aspect of sleep procrastination. By prioritizing your own needs and putting yourself first, you may help ensure you don’t later have the urge to stay up late period.

6. Get a visual time clock

Maybe the obstacle that's in the way of you learning how to stop sleep procrastination is that you simply lose track of time. In this case, visual timers may be helpful; they display the passage of time with a disappearing disk, which can can help promote self-regulation so you have more control of your time throughout the day and not "borrow" from sleeping hours.

7. Make your evening routine intentional

"Part of the reason our nights get so drawn out is because we're waiting to feel good," says Dr. Kennedy. "But you end up with better quality relaxation if it's intentional rather than passive." So how do we make our relaxation intentional? For starters, give it your full attention. "Don't multitask when you're relaxing," she says. "If you're on your phone while you're watching TV, that show is failing you and there has to be something better you can do with your restoration time."

"Part of the reason our nights get so drawn out is because we're waiting to feel good. But you end up with better quality relaxation if it's intentional rather than passive." —Dr. Kennedy

Another way to make your evening intentional? Start your nighttime routine during the day. Get into pajamas before your relaxation time has even begun, because doing so signals that sleep is not far behind. It also feels intentional and planned, rather than the alternative of you getting sucked in and carried away. Remember, you control your time, it doesn't control you.

8. Consider journaling or therapy

After a stressful or packed day, we all just want to veg out. But if zoning out and losing track of your evening becomes a regular pattern, it might reflect an avoidance of our own thoughts to seek out something else to make us feel good. Getting in the habit of journaling every morning or afternoon can help you unpack and understand what you’re trying to numb out, and a therapist can help you find healthy and productive ways to cope with stress.

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