How to stop bedtime procrastination?

How to stop bedtime procrastination?


It's 10pm. You have been occupied for the entire day, your work, your clients, your boss...You are exhausted and in need of good night sleep, but at night is the only time you could focus on yourself and have some "me-time". So you brought your phone to bed and went down a rabbit hole of unconscious scrolling...


What is this phenomenon?


Revenge Sleep Procrastination

Revenge sleep procrastination is the decision to sacrifice sleep for leisure time as a result of a very busy daily schedule. In the long-term, it can result in chronic sleep deprivation. [1]


Here's a 3 step self-diagnosis:

1) A reduction in your total sleep time due to a delayed bedtime.
2) Staying up later than intended without a valid reason (i.e., being ill).
3) An awareness that delaying your bedtime is bad for your health and performance.

If you answered yes to all three of these questions, you have sleep revenge procrastination. [2]


Why do people do it, knowing that it's bad?

An attempt to regain control

Unlike night-owls whose peak efficiency is at night, people engaging in revenge sleep procrastination do so to "fight back" their demanding work schedule. It is like a desperate act of "self-care" to regain some control over one's life.


The battle between the limbic system vs. prefrontal cortex

Our brain during procrastination is like a tug-of-war between the limbic system (containing the pleasure centre) and the prefrontal cortex (the decision-making centre). The limbic system is one of the brain's oldest and most dominant parts. Therefore, self-control is required to engage your pre-frontal cortex in a task consciously, or else your limbic system takes over. Unfortunately, our self-control is at its lowest at the end of the day. As a result, our limbic system usually wins this tug-of-war, trading sleep for temporary relief. [3]


Dopamine, our old friend

Perhaps you often brought your phone to bed thinking: I'll only scroll for 5 minutes and go to sleep but end up scrolling way longer. Our brain releases dopamine and remains in a "higher-than-baseline" dopamine state when we scroll. So even if we know it's time to sleep, the act of "stop scrolling" results in a drop in dopamine levels. This leads to unpleasant withdrawal symptoms, which manifest in that voice in your head that says, "I want more!!!"


What's the way out?

1) Take micro-breaks throughout the day

Studies have shown that taking micro-moments: breaks that are five minutes or less, evenly throughout the workday, can help people more effectively conserve their energies and reconnect their mind and body. For example, you could set a 5 min stretch break at your desk after every hour of working; you could practice focusing on your breathing while waiting in line, and add a 3 min meditation before a meeting. If you don't know where to start, try the Pomodoro Technique. [4]

Pomodoro Technique

1) Choose a specific task to do
2) Set a timer for 25 minutes
3) Take a 5-minute break
4) Repeat.

It is proven that knowing there's a break coming up soon keeps your attention span on track and fights cognitive boredom. [5]


2) Establish healthy boundaries between work and personal life

Try scheduling blocks of time each week specifically for things that you truly enjoy, set a time limit, and engage yourself 100% in these activities during these designated time blocks. For example, you could schedule every Sunday afternoon for family and friends. If you do these things more regularly (small doses, once in a while), you won't feel such a strong, accumulated urge to fight back the long working hours. [6]


3) Find other relaxation methods

There are better things to do than scrolling before bed to help you regain some "me time". Bedtime activities like a timed meditation or yoga session can also serve the purpose of helping you relax without the side-effects of keeping you up and awake too long. If you struggle with self-control, the simplest way is to leave your phone in another room while you go to bed.


4) Have a frank talk with yourself

Write down the list of things that sleep will help you accomplish the next day. You could use sentences like: "with a good night's sleep, I will be able to ....tomorrow." Stick it somewhere visible in your bedroom to remind yourself to make sleep a priority.


We can't always control the flexibility of our lifestyle, and it is 100% normal to experience the urge to "revenge" by staying up, like gasping for air after being suffocated for a long time. But we do have control over little things that are powerful enough to prevent ourselves from suffocating in the first place :)


Quiz Time!

You feel so tired but you don't want to go the bed yet, the night is just starting, and you want to enjoy some me-time. You remember that there's an important presentation tomorrow morning, you could:

A. Set a 15min timer to read your favorite book
B. Bring your phone to bed
C. Leave your phone in a drawer that's far from reach from your bed
D. Remind yourself that with a good night sleep, I will nail the presentation tomorrow!



[1] Suni, E. (2021, February 23). Revenge bedtime procrastination: Definition & psychology. Sleep Foundation. Retrieved November 16, 2021, from

[2] Magalhães, P., Cruz, V., Teixeira, S., Fuentes, S., & Rosário, P. (2020). An Exploratory Study on Sleep Procrastination: Bedtime vs. While-in-Bed Procrastination. International journal of environmental research and public health, 17(16), 5892.

[3] Spencer , A., & Seaver, M. (2019, August 27). Want to Train Your Brain to Stop Procrastinating? Read These Tips From a Neuroscientist. Real Simple. Retrieved November 16, 2021, from

[4] Kim, S., Cho, S., & Park, Y. (2021). Daily microbreaks in a self-regulatory resources lens: Perceived health climate as a contextual moderator via microbreak autonomy. Journal of Applied Psychology. Advance online publication.

[5] Memon, M. (2020, March 18). The science behind the Pomodoro Technique and how it helps supercharge your productivity. focus booster blog. Retrieved November 16, 2021, from

[6] Morton, K. (2021, April 12). Revenge bedtime procrastination . YouTube. Retrieved November 16, 2021, from

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