'I just learned about ‘Revenge Bedtime Procrastination’ and turns out you're probably guilty.'

It turns out there's a psychological justification for one of your most toxic behaviours and yes I'm listening please do go on. 

It's called Revenge Bedtime Procrastination and you better believe I came across it while scrolling through Instagram in the middle of the night even though my eyes were stinging and I'd said "I'm tired" 14 times throughout the day. 

Let me set the scene. I'm laying in bed, absorbing blue light through my eyeballs, upsetting my body's Circadian rhythm when I see that presenter, DJ and podcaster Flex Mami had shared a Tik Tok.

This Tik Toker (???) said: "Fun fact, did you guys know that there's this thing called Revenge Bedtime Procrastination where people will refuse to sleep because they don't have much control over their daytime life, so they will sleep very late at night even if they're super tired because they just don't want that free time to end at night and they don't want tomorrow to start."

IT ME.  

UM YES I KNEW THIS WAS A THING BECAUSE I'VE DONE IT EVERY NIGHT OF MY WHOLE LIFE I just didn't know it had a name and I could blame the external world for my weird AF behaviour??

What I had long been calling 'self sabotage' is actually called 'Revenge Bedtime Procrastination' or alternatively, 'Retaliatory Staying Up Late'.


According to the BBCthe term appears to have originated in China. A November 2018 blog post by a man from the Guangdong province wrote that his workday "belonged to someone else" and he was only able to "find himself"  once he got home, alone, and had no one to answer to. 

Watch: Can too much sleep cause nightmares? Post continues below. 

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When journalist Daphne K. Lee tweeted about the concept in June last year, it attracted more than a quarter of a million reactions. It turns out, a lot of people thought it was just them "being dumb" and not a very human response to craving autonomy. 


Every night for as long as I can remember, I hesitate going to sleep. During particularly stressful times it's become completely out of hand, and I've resisted sleep until three or four o'clock in the morning. 

Need an activity to do to avoid going to sleep? Listen to the latest episode of Mamamia Out Loud...

There's a sense that nighttime is the only period of my life that truly belongs to me. It's quiet and peaceful and no one is watching. As my good friend the Tik Tokker put it, once I wake up I know the grind of the day will start again. Sleep can feel like a waste, where you can't think or consume or play. Sleep is of course self care, but not the kind of self care you get to consciously enjoy. 

And I'm coming at this from the perspective of a young, unmarried, child free woman. The phenomenon is said to be even more pervasive among parents, who struggle to squirrel five minutes of their own time throughout the day. My own mother, who had four children under the age of two and a half, never compromised her late nights on the lounge watching terrible television. It was perhaps the only period where she felt like herself. 

Us Revenge Bedtime Procrastinators know how we're going to feel in the morning. Sick. Cranky. Full of self loathing. 

"Nah nah,"  we tell ourselves confidently. "I'm going to go to bed super early tonight and catch up." 

But then the sun goes down and we get a pit of expectation in our bellies and can't put a book down or switch off Netflix or stop scrolling through weird corners of the internet.

What we're doing feels rebellious. An act of resistance. A middle finger to the 'shoulds' that never stop yelling at us. 

While I'm sure there are a number of solutions (going to bed earlier, reclaiming some 'leisure' time during the day, having a bedtime alarm etc.) I'm not especially interested in fixing my late night habit. 

I'm just stoked I can now blame the world for my startling lack of self-discipline. And, as it turns out, I'm not the only one laying in bed, opening every app in my phone, before I finally give in to going to sleep.