What is a 'reverse sleep in' and why you probably need one.

Sleep-deprived new parents - I feel your pain. The exhaustion from a lack of sleep was for me, one of the hardest aspects of parenting in the early years. 

Everything became about how much sleep I did or didn't get and reading about expert sleep hacks was my favourite pastime. Being on the receiving end of 'advice' from well-slept friends telling you to just 'sleep when the baby sleeps', however, was something else. 

Just when I thought there wasn't any new sleep advice to process, I came across a new idea I hadn't heard before called a 'reverse sleep-in'. 

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According to postpartum doula and mum Naomi Chrisoulakis, a 'reverse sleep-in' is essentially code for prioritising going to bed early, to make up for the sleep-ins that we as adults with kids or busy lives, no longer enjoy.

Twice a week this mum-of-two gives up her evening Netflix time with her partner and hops into bed with a book by 8.30pm. 


Consider it a twice-weekly replacement for your past lazy weekend sleep-ins, hence the term 'reverse sleep-in'.

While it is not exactly rocket science, I am a big fan of this sensible advice, even if repackaged with a fancy new name. Now in my forties, an early night with a book comes with the same 'luxury vibe' of a sleep-in when I was in my twenties.

But telling new parents, or any parents to just 'go to bed' early is great in theory, but not always so easy in practice. 

In our house, my 12-year-old sometimes stays awake until 9 pm doing sports or homework and then just chilling out. If I want to have a chat with my husband about our days or watch what I want on TV, I need to be awake a little later than 8.30 pm. 

For parents of little kids and babies, those quiet late-night hours once the kids are FINALLY asleep provide precious me-time. 


Clawing back some time at night for yourself is officially known as 'revenge bedtime procrastination' and appears to have originated in China.

According to the BBC, 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.  

The phrase, which is code for simply 'staying up late’, went viral on Twitter in June 2020 after a post by journalist Daphne K Lee. She described 'revenge bedtime procrastination' for “people who don’t have much control over their daytime life and refuse to sleep early in order to regain some sense of freedom during late-night hours”.

I heartily relate to this idea which directly clashes with my need to get to bed early and benefit from a 'reverse sleep-in'.

Mamamia's own Jessie Stephens wrote about her struggles with this phenomenon back in 2021.

"Every night for as long as I can remember, I hesitate going to sleep," Jessie writes.

"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. 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...

"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."

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We all know that sleep is good for us and we should take it where we can because babies and little kids are the ultimate sleep thieves. 

But as parents, we also miss out on much time to ourselves, to think or zone out and watch that new series everyone is talking about. 

There is a huge push-and-pull relationship between wanting a reverse sleep-in versus revenge bedtime procrastination, and perhaps we need to accept that on some days, one idea will win out over the other.

For me, two early nights a week feels like total 'sleep goals', as realistically I only manage one. But a busy working mum can dream, right?

Sleep expert Rachel Beard wrote for Mamamia just last week about her four biggest sleep hacks and while she didn't mention the 'reverse sleep-in', she said that consistency in your sleeping and waking schedule, eating well, environmental factors and creating a pre-bedtime ritual, all help.

For anyone currently struggling with getting enough sleep, please try to take it and enjoy wherever and however you can.

Whether you do the 'reverse sleep-in', create a dreamy bedroom space or simply hand the babies to your partner take a well-deserved deserved nap on the couch - I wish you the very best in getting some solid sleep time.

Laura Jackel is Mamamia's Family Writer. For links to her articles and to see photos of her outfits and kids, follow her on Instagram and TikTok.

Feature Image: Getty.

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