Revenge Bedtime Procrastination shortens lifespan, and you are clueless how it is affecting you.
A few months back, no matter how much I slept, it wasn't enough. A couple of years ago, I never had problems with lack of sleep; I could get by on as few as 3 hours a night and function like any average person. If I think back to my mid-twenties, I averaged five hours of sleep or less per night. Now it is a different story, is sleep deprivation creeping up on me?
Did I punish myself for the last 20 plus years?
I started to see issues at the end of last year. Not sleeping enough became so bad that it ultimately started messing with my health. My blood pressure shot to crazy figures, and my doctor had to tell me to take things easy. I have never taken things easy in my life, but I had to start now if I didn't want to work myself into the ground.
I have suffered from Hypertension nearly all my life and knew that making specific lifestyle changes would only help. That was something I should have done years back but never did. I knew that there were certain things that one could do to improve one's blood pressure. The biggest was surprisingly sleep, which I never got enough off. So I decided to focus on my sleep and had a huge revelation.
I realized I was prioritizing everything else above sleep, stuff I loved to do and could not do during the day, like scrolling through my social media feeds, reading, watching videos etc.
Even though I knew I needed sleep, I still prioritized everything above sleep.
This behaviour was not something new it had started small, 5 minutes of scrolling which would ultimately grow to an hour, sometimes 2 hours. Then I would tell myself, "I should have read a few pages of the book", and then I would start reading for another 30 minutes. I would also empathize with myself and give myself solace by telling myself from tomorrow onwards; I will change. I would sleep on time, but as the saying goes, tomorrow never comes.
This trend started in my late twenties, leading to 5 to 6 hours of sleep a day. Fast forward to a few months back, I was sleeping an average of 3 to 4 hours a night.
The problem is that I have always wanted "me time", and I could never find it throughout the day, so I sacrificed sleep for "me time" instead. This is not just me; most of us are doing the same thing, wasting time on other things than utilizing it to sleep. You know what I am talking about; please don't deny it, whether it is social media feeds, watching Netflix, playing that game, reading etc. You are sacrificing your sleep for it all.
I didn't know it at the time, but this phenomenon has a name, and it is called Revenge Bedtime Procrastination.
What is Revenge Bedtime Procrastination? Revenge Bedtime procrastination is when we put off going to bed to engage in activities that we don't have time for during the day at the expense of sleep. It starts small and eventually becomes a habit, and then you find yourself sacrificing 3 – 4 hours of sleep for something you could have done sometime during the day.
The effects are really bad on health.
Personally, I found my stress levels rising. I started gaining loads of weight, and I would get agitated for the slightest of things.
After researching the health effects of Revenge Bedtime Procrastination, I came across the following, which is extremely scary. These are the after-effects of not getting enough sleep.
Difficulty in concentration levels
High blood pressure
Increased risk of cardiac problems
A weakened immunity
Reduction in memory retention
Just reading this list got me making significant changes in my life. I started ensuring I slept a minimum of 7 hours a day. After being inspired by Robbin Sharma, I have also wanted to join the 5 am club. However, you need to understand that I am a night owl and waking up at 5 am was not easy. Then to top it off, I wanted 7-8 hours of sleep, which meant going to bed between 9 pm and 10 pm. The last time I slept at 9 pm was when I was 13 years old. These changes were not easy, but I had no other options.
Here are the seven major changes that I made to help me start sleeping earlier and slowly decreased my Revenge Bedtime Procrastination.
1. Prioritize Sleep: Your sleep needs to be the top priority. It starts with getting into bed on time. For me, 10 pm was my cutoff time. To be in bed by 10, I had to keep multiple alarms, one alarm an hour before, then one 30 minutes before, another 10 minutes earlier, and then on time. These alarms ensured that I would be reminded about lights off multiple times before my cutoff time. Following this process, I am in bed way before 10 pm, and I would be in dreamland by 10 pm.
2. Practice Good Pre-Sleep Habits: I am a coffee drinker. If you are one of those who gets stimulated with coffee, it's advisable to cut out your Coffee intake early in the evening or late afternoon. This doesn't apply to only coffee but to other stimulants like energy drinks etc. In addition, once home, start doing the following:
a. Turn the lights low: If you have yellow lights in your house, start turning those on, and they will automatically help get your circadian rhythms in sync.
b. Music: Music helps me tremendously. Turn on some light music (Spotify and other music subscriptions have some great Playlists for night routines. Here is the one I use on Spotify) and let it do its magic. Music helps in calming nerves and bringing you into a restful state. There is a reason for the saying by William Congreve, "Music has charms to soothe a savage breast."
c. Remove Stress: Stop doing anything that will increase stress levels, like office work after 7:30 pm. It has been seen that news can also increase stress levels, stop watching the news, especially before going to bed.
d. Meditate: Incorporate Meditation into your night routine. Even if it is for 10 minutes, it will make a massive difference to your sleep. An excellent app for meditation is Headspace (headspace.com). I use Headspace, but there are others. The well-known ones are Headspace and Calm (calm.com).
3. Your Schedule is your problem: I've always been really organized when it comes to work. Everything that needs to be done is in my calendar (Google Calendar) the night before. However, this only applied to work. My personal life was all over the place, and I decided to do the same for my personal life. I started to incorporate everything into my calendar; most importantly, this included sleep.
4. Start saying 'no' to unnecessary tasks if possible: Cutting out unnecessary tasks, especially those eating away at your time, is essential. We tend to utilize sleeping time on the things we want to do because we can't find the time to do those during the day. However, what if we did have the time? What is the excuse? The key is to delegate where possible and say no to the things that are not warranted. In this case, work smart. Schedule Time for Yourself. Once time is freed up, add time to indulge in some of the things you love. This may not be easy, particularly for parents or professionals who can't step away from their obligations and responsibilities. But you can make time if you want. Our problem is guilt. We start thinking, let's give time to the kids, or something or the other. Another issue is that you don't want to be seen as someone who is slacking. Thus, we try to avoid "me time" and focus on work during the day. We try to look busy, which is indeed counterproductive. Plenty of research shows that time spent on yourself will make you more productive. So why feel guilty when the time you are going to invest in yourself will yield you a 10x return.
5. Start (and stick to) a relaxing bedtime routine: As mentioned above, a bedtime routine is vital. In case you do not have a bedtime routine, start one. And start it as early as possible. I decided that my sleep time should be 10 pm. So I started my bedtime routine an hour earlier. Honestly speaking, it was not enough. I say start your bedtime routine 2 hours earlier so you can close your day at a leisurely pace. It will give you time to unwind. What are some of the stuff I do during my bedtime routine? I take a nice bath, followed by meditation, journaling, prayers and then some light reading before bed. That is what I do. Starting your own routine, do what feels right for you. Just remember starting a night routine is not the problem. Sticking to it is. Just make it a habit. It is your time; use it wisely.
6. Turn Off the Digital Devices: This was the hardest thing for me to do. Close off Youtube or Netflix, and skip scrolling through social media platforms while lying in bed. I would advise you to focus on practising relaxation habits that promote sleep, such as doing some gentle stretches, meditating, or reading a book.
7. Bring some work-life balance into your life. We are always connected, and to be honest, we don't know when to switch off. It starts small, "I'll check one email only", but from one, it turns into you spending 2 hours firefighting. The only way is to draw a line and be disciplined with yourself.
These seven things have helped me with my Revenge Bedtime Procrastination, and I am sure they can help you. Will it be easy? Honestly, the answer is no. You will have good days and bad days. Starting small will help; keep working from there and congratulate yourself on your small successes. However, don't be discouraged if you go to bed late now and then. Just keep at it, and in time you will see that going to bed early will come more naturally.
I would love to hear if you suffer from revenge bedtime procrastination and if you were able to recover from it. Please mention it in the comments area. It would help others in their journey as well.
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