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Revenge sleep procrastination

Why people have started sacrificing their sleep for more free time.

Sleep schedules across the globe were one of the many victims of 2020. Suddenly, people who were working from home could swap their usual commute for sleeping in a little later, their usual 10pm bed-time pushed out a couple of hours to binge watch a few of their favourite Netflix shows. The line between when their day began and ended became incredibly blurred. They suddenly had a whole bunch of free time, it seemed. There was less time needed to commute, to socialise, to sleep. Instead, there was more time to spend with those they lived with, more time to exercise, more time to do proper shops and cook healthier meals.

Now that our time is starting to be spread a little thinner again, a new term has popped out of the woodwork. The first sighting of this term was back on Twitter in 2018 (although it has probably been around for longer) and it has now gone viral on several social media platforms.

It will likely sound pretty damn familiar to many of us.

Revenge Sleep Procrastination:

A phenomenon in which people who don’t have much control over their daytime life refuse to sleep early in order to regain some sense of freedom during late night hours.

Revenge Sleep Procrastination, an expression translated from a Chinese term (報復性熬夜) / ‘bàofùxìng áoyè’), is basically the act of taking back your freedom. By staying up late, you attempt to grasp back hours of free time, whilst sacrificing the hours you usually spend asleep. It’s not necessarily because you want to stay up, and it’s very rarely because you’re not tired. It’s more so an act of defiance against what you perceive as time being taken away from you.

It is evident that this term has resonated with millions. Saman Haider (an American pre-med psychology student) posted a TikTok video explaining the phenomenon, and it quickly went viral – hitting the nerve of many. The video itself has been viewed over 15 million times and gained over 3 million likes.

The New York Times recently posted an article exploring another relevant term for how many of us seem to be feeling lately, and that term is ‘languishing’. If we were to view this feeling on a mental health spectrum, it would fall between depression and flourishing. The article states that although we may not be feeling entirely depressed or hopeless, we do feel “somewhat joyless and aimless”. Is it any wonder then, that we try and milk every hour of what we can with our favourite hobbies? That we swap the hours we probably should be spending sleeping to seek some sense of joy, fulfilment and fun from what we can? Even if it means we wake up exhausted the following morning, only to repeat our mistakes again the following evening…

Image Source: Photo by JESHOOTS.COM on Unsplash

As our days begin to feel more and more mundane, with the simple things like walks in the park no longer sparking feelings of joy, we begin to feel a little off. The option to travel the world and simply live how we want to live has been taken away from us for over a year now, with little hope of returning in the near future. We therefore find ourselves grabbing control, time and little sparks of happiness from wherever we can.

So, what can we do if we are experiencing a sense of languish? What can we do if we find ourselves taking vengeance against our stolen time by staying up to the early hours of the morning?

  • Remember that although it may seem like you’re doing yourself a favour by staying awake, you’re actually stealing away the hours you really need to be sleeping. A lack of sleep can lead to depression, will make you lose focus and give you a general feeling of unease. In turn, it becomes a vicious cycle – you feel down so you try and use more downtime to experience a sense of bliss, whilst sacrificing of sleep. Then repeat. Using your time to sleep is not a punishment, but a necessity to be a happy, healthy human.

  • If you can, change how you use some of time that you perceive as stolen. Read a book or listen to your favourite podcast on your commute. Go to your favourite restaurant on your lunch break. Go to an early dinner with friends to catch-up instead of attending late night drinks, so that you can come home sooner and relax. By making yourself feel like you are utilising chunks of your free time how you want to spend it throughout the entire day, you won’t feel such a strong desire to take back time from your sleep.

  • Make it a rule to put your phone away 1-2 hours before your set bed-time. We all know how many seconds, minutes and hours can fall away whilst we scroll. The time spent doing this is very rarely worth your sleep.

  • Understand the importance of work/life flexibility and if you feel like you’re really struggling with achieving the right balance, reach out to those who can help, like your senior management.

  • Set yourself a measurable and achievable goal – whether it’s writing a book or running a marathon. Dedicate the free time you do have towards taking small steps to achieving this goal. You will feel far more satisfied with how you’ve used your time and are less likely to feel a desire for vengeance (the main victim being your sleep)

Maddie Rosier

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