Here’s Why You Stay Up Late, Even When You Know You Shouldn’t

Maddie Rose
4 min readJun 2, 2021

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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.

In 2021, as Australians slowly make their way back to a semblance of what once was, they are left with a rekindled love and desire for free time. 2020 was certainly a hellish year for sure, but it gave us levels of time that we had never really had before (albeit, with limited things to do).

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.

For many, they are back to spending hours and hours on commutes each week. Their lunch breaks that were previously spent exercising and going for long walks are now being replaced with lunch at their desks. They get home from work to cook dinner, go to the gym, have a shower, chat to their loved ones. They no longer have the excuse of lockdowns and social distancing to skip plans and events with friends and family. Social calendars are filling up quicker than work ones.

By the time they get to enjoy some ‘downtime’, it’s late. But they aren’t quite ready to sleep yet. Because what little remnants of time that they do have, that belong to them (and only them), are finite and precious. And they want more.

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.

Photo by Vladislav Muslakov on Unsplash

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.

So, what can we if we suddenly feel the urge for some revenge procrastination? 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)

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Maddie Rose

Leaving parties early since 1991. Advertising suit by day.