Washington, DC — We’re all guilty of late-night indulgences. For some, this means a delicious midnight snack to satisfy their sweet tooth. For others, such as myself, this means staying up hours past my bedtime.
Despite my exhaustion after a long day, I crash on my bed and still find my fingers reaching for my phone. I know that I should be going to sleep, but I can’t stop. I spend my time in bed, on my phone, doing everything from binging shows to going through the top Twitter trends. Yes, I feel tired, but I feel more relieved that I finally have some “me time.”
But now I’m getting a bit concerned. When I woke up at around 8 a.m. one Saturday, my brain felt like a painful pile of mush and doing anything — including closing my eyes to sleep — hurt.
Leading up to then, mornings were becoming harder to get through. But I laughed it off and dismissed my struggles as a “teenage thing.” I wasn’t wrong to some extent. Almost all my friends do the same thing. That was our logic — or lack thereof in this case.
I eventually worked up the nerve to look into this “not-a-problem” problem and stumbled across the newly coined phenomenon called Revenge Bedtime Procrastination (RBP). With all the buzz around this new word, it was hard to separate fact from fallacy. So I spoke with Julie Guirguis, a licensed therapist from Texas, to get her thoughts on RBP. If you or someone you know is struggling with RBP, here’s what you need to know.
What is Revenge Bedtime Procrastination?
RBP is the purposeful delaying of your bedtime in order to engage in enjoyable activities. Since many of us spend a lot of our time working, studying or engaging in obligations, relaxation time diminishes.
This is especially the case for those who don’t value relaxation time like they do other aspects of their life. But in actuality, it's a need that we have, according to Guirguis. So what we end up doing is finding the time to relax. And in turn, what gets neglected is our sleep.
Who is most impacted by this RBP?
Students and women are impacted the most, according to Guirguis. And this could be attributed to their sleep cycle. From studying to nightlife, students are often so busy that they stay up longer and push back their sleep cycle.
As for women, although this isn’t confirmed, there is speculation that the roles women still carry in society contribute to this phenomenon. Guirguis told me that it’s not in all cases, but in many, women still carry a heavier load.
Many women work in and out of their homes. From their jobs to putting the children to bed or cleaning the kitchen, they don't have a lot of time to unwind. These women end up carving that relaxation time out of sleep — especially for single mothers or those facing difficult circumstances.
What are the long-term and short-term effects of RBP?
Guirguis said there are two main effects. One effect that’s both short-term and long-term is the lack of body growth. Sleep is the time where our body repairs and heals itself thanks to a set amount of hours of sleep. So if we keep pushing that back or cutting it short, then we're not getting enough time to repair our bodies.
Another long-term health consequence Guirguis mentioned is cognitive issues. The lack of sleep can result in experiencing trouble putting thoughts together, concentrating and focusing.
How can we not give into RBP?
RBP is a hard habit to break for me. So here are the tips Guirguis shared to help me out.
Make bedtime enticing by avoiding stressful or exciting activities before your desired bedtime. Don’t run around the house doing all sorts of chores or get sucked into a TV show, and then force yourself into bed and expect to fall asleep right away. Humans don't work that way, so try different wind-down routines until you find the right one.
For some people, this routine involves appealing to the senses by opening relaxing, slow music, using a meditation app, taking a bath or shower to wash off the day, or turning on a diffuser with soothing essential oils. Others prefer activities that slow down their energy level such as reading a book, exercising or taking a walk.
If you experience a lot of stress throughout the day or especially at night, then being aware of that and decluttering your mind is also useful. Try getting a piece of paper and write down everything that pops into your mind. This brain dump will allow you to put all your thoughts into one place for tomorrow and fall asleep faster with a clear mind.
For everyone, however, it’s important to identify what helps you or prevents you from sleeping. If watching the peeling of soap makes your eyelids droopy then go for it. Or if you hate the feeling of exhaustion after a long night, then use that as a personal motivator to sleep.
There is also the option of seeking medical attention if the other methods don’t work, but remember that patience is key. It will take time to build this self-discipline and get your body to be responsive to the new sleep patterns. So invest in yourself and go to sleep.