Revenge Bedtime Procrastination:: My Nemesis to Good Sleep

woman caught in revenge bedtime procrastination by scrolling phone in bedAll the way back in January, I first heard the term revenge bedtime procrastination {RBP}. As a mid-pandemic mom of a toddler with additional responsibilities toward a busy medical practice, my husband, and our pup, this concept hit home. And I mean hit home deeply, like actually worthy of the mind-blown emoji.

What is Revenge Bedtime Procrastination?

Long story short, the idea is that RBP {I made up this abbreviation because the full phrase is too unwieldy} is the encapsulation of those evening minutes, or sometimes hours, that we while away mindlessly scrolling social media, watching TikTok, and so on to unwind for a while, when really we desperately need to go to bed. It garnered the name “revenge” bedtime procrastination because we often times do this in a subconscious effort to…ahem…reclaim our time. We are raging against the demands of motherhood, pandemic life, tough jobs, and more by carving out the mindless personal time our brain desperately craves. But with the realities of life, that time can only be found by borrowing against the hours we have to sleep. Pretty lame revenge, sadly, as we’re really only shooting ourselves in the foot. But many of us do it anyways.

Revenge Bedtime Procrastination summarized a phenomenon I hadn’t even fully processed I was experiencing, validated some less-than-ideal lifestyle choices I was making by the realization that I’m not alone, and helped me try to strategize ways to do better. Are you caught up in the RBP whirlwind too?

What am I Doing Wrong?

When I came across the RBP term, I read a whole spate of articles on it. It seems silly, but I found myself amazed that this behavior, which felt simultaneously liberating and self-destructive {forget drugs and wild parties, folks, this is just exhausted mamas really “living it up” vicariously through social media} was not a particular black hole I had gotten sucked into somehow.

I am surrounded by people, mostly {entirely} men, who seem to have achieved better life balance, with more ample free time, and I have wondered at times whether there was just something I was doing wrong. Why was it that some folks had no trouble keeping up with all the latest shows and movies, creating awesome social media content, developing new hobbies, while I was barely scraping together a few minutes of down time, holed up in my bed with the pup on one side, and the monitor for my daughter’s bedroom on the other, knowing that 1 night out of every 10, I would still be scrolling in the dark when she woke up and started crying to come over and sleep with us too?

In those moments, I would both savor her sweet scent as we fell back asleep together and hate myself for not taking the opportunity to sleep soundly when I could. Even sillier, until I bought myself an actual alarm clock, I would often fall asleep scrolling, with my phone slipping out of my hand to lay by my side, uncharged or dead upon my morning waking, inducing the liability that my alarm might not even sound.

Combating RBP

It took me at least 6 months of subconsciously processing RBP before I figured out how to combat it. Everyone is different in terms of the barriers they have to finding more free time throughout the day. But when I read recently that at least 2 hours of free time a day can land you in a happiness sweet spot, I felt even more motivated to take proactive charge of my nighttime habits. Via my training in lifestyle medicine, I also know – and counsel folks on the daily – that screens right before bedtime mess with our sleep quality. So, I have adopted more of a mentality of intentionality when it comes to how my evenings go. I get myself ready for bed before I go put my daughter down, which prevents me from getting so exhausted in that latter undertaking that I skip my own basic nightly hygiene. My teeth are excited that they are now regularly getting brushed and flossed at night! I went cold turkey and quit my TikTok addiction, because the first time I got the “you’ve been scrolling too long, you should take a break” video, I felt deeply ashamed. Was this really what my life had come to?? I might watch TV a few times a week, or go hang out downstairs with my night owl husband, but I read books or magazines more often to avoid the blue light effect, and I also make sure that at least 2-3 nights a week, I just get to bed on time, going straight from my daughter’s bedtime to my own.

At the same time, I have also fully accepted that until I am out of the phase of having little kiddos, my nights are wildly unpredictable and not entirely my own. So sometimes the night I had allocated to good sleep goes haywire because my daughter decides that sleeping perpendicular to me is ideal, with her little feet literally trapping me in a surprise chokehold every few hours, or because the pup has diarrhea and needs to relieve himself at midnight, and 3am, and 5am too. It’s the “price” I pay for the little squishes that fill the cup of my love language, physical affection. Slowly, slowly, I’ve found myself doing a lot less Revenge Bedtime Procrastination and the sense of control and agency over my nighttime has been a new source of satisfaction…and one that is actually good for me!


 

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Rashmi Kudesia, MD MSc is a board-certified OB/GYN and Reproductive Endocrinology & Infertility specialist who is passionate about improving women's access to evidence-based, honest reproductive health information and care. Aside from her clinical practice seeing patients in Houston and Sugar Land, Rashmi frequently speaks at conferences and community events, and advocates for women's health via media interviews and social media. Originally a Midwesterner, she moved around the East Coast for school and training, including nearly a decade in NYC, where she met her husband, Ashish, a Houston native. After moving to Houston in 2018, she's continued searching for that perfect work-life balance as the family grew quickly, adding their first pup, Bowser {2018}, their first home, and now their first kiddo, Amara {2019}! Right now, she's learning the ropes of being a working mama, but still loves exploring Houston's amazing food scene, checking out the newest museum exhibits, or planning the family's next trip. She's always on the hunt for the city's best iced latte or glass of wine to be savored with a good book. Find her on Facebook and Instagram {@rkudesia}.

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