What is ‘Revenge Sleep Procrastination’ and How Can We Avoid it? | Men's Health Magazine Australia

What is ‘Revenge Sleep Procrastination’ and How Can We Avoid it?

Consider the clinic door open – this is the first in our all-new mental-health based column, Men’s Health’s ‘Mind Matters’. I’m Dr Kieran Kennedy, a medical doctor specialising in psychiatry (aka brains + mental health) with degrees in psychology, physiology and medicine.

Alongside being a fitness nut I’m passionate about pushing all things mental fitness so it’s here we’ll tackle a fresh set of reps for mental health each week. Looking out for health of mind as much as muscle is more important now than ever so I’m stoked to be joining team MH to help us do just that. Let’s get to it.

Procrastination ft. sleep 

Getting your shut eye is incredibly important for all aspects of wellbeing, but when it comes to mental health it’s even more vital. Interestingly, sleep is one of the most common struggles modern men face and evidence suggests most of us aren’t getting enough of it. So when I first read about the theory of ‘sleep procrastination’ – the not so subtle art of being unable to drag ourselves to bed even though we know we should – I’ll admit I’d never felt so seen.

So, what is it?

While the theory of ‘Revenge Sleep Procrastination’ is still fairly new, it’s one that holds some scientific weight. Technically it’s defined as delaying bed and losing sleep even when:

  1. there’s no legitimate reason to not hit the hay 
  2. we’re tired and know we need to 
  3. there’s a weird sense of just not being able to make ourselves do it. 

If, like me, reading that feels like someone’s literally just summed up your entire adult life well, it turns out we’re not alone. Initial surveys show sleep procrastination is incredibly common, and is a big factor in why we’re getting less shut eye than ever before. 

Revenge though? 

So if staying up late in Youtube wormholes or doing literally anything other than hitting that 10pm bedtime (I see you) is just us procrastinating on yet another thing, where does ‘revenge’ come in? Turns out psychologists now feel a major part of delaying bedtime even when we know we shouldn’t might be our mind’s way of claiming back some of our day. Studies show that bedtime procrastination often goes hand in hand with how much the work day creeps into our everyday lives and how much (or not) we feel our time’s our own. When we feel there’s less time for ‘us’ procrastination might creep in as a mental tactic that enables us to feel like we’ve had some down-time in our day.  

How to hit back

So if procrastination isn’t something we just save for study, bills or awkward emails you know you need to send the boss, how do we hit back when it comes to mucking around at night? And in turn, how do we get a bigger and better sleep full-stop? Whether it’s to combat stress, depression or to support overall wellbeing, even a little more sleep can make a huge difference so this one’s important to push. 

Here are some doc-approved pointers for giving sleep procrastination the boot:

  • Prioritising time off is as important as time on. Aim to schedule down-time and non-work activities across the week just like you do your jobs list so there’s less of a need for procrastination at night
  • Transition points help set mental boundaries on the day. Even when working from home, have a signal that marks the end of the work day for the brain such as a run, a shower, emails silenced or even just a change of clothes
  • Sleep improves in quantity but especially quality when we prep it during the day. Aim to keep caffeine (including pre-workout supplements) to before lunch, keep alcohol free days around every week, stick to a routined sleep/wake time and avoid screens 30 mins before bed
  • Where we sleep is as important as when. In the hour or two before bed try to dim the lights, cool the house, lower stimulation and get the bed ready 
  • Devices hijack reward circuits and so work in procrastination’s favour. Be intentional about timing these at night with a self-agreement on times, a certain number of social media clips or an alarm to break that Netflix binge 
  • “Add 30” – call bedtime 30 mins before actual lights out to help block procrastination (better yet, add the tips above here).

See you next week for our next instalment of the Men’s Health ‘Mind Matters’. 

By Kieran Kennedy

As a medical doctor and psychiatry resident, with degrees in psychology, physiology and medicine / surgery, Dr. Kieran Kennedy sees, first hand, the absolute importance in advocating for mental health. He is also writer & speaker, natural bodybuilder and fitness model.

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