Are you a self-described night owl who stays up until the wee hours binge-watching your favorite show or endlessly scrolling through social media, only to wake up the next day exhausted? If so, you’re not alone.
Staying up late even though you’re tired and have to get up early the next day is known as revenge sleep procrastination. The idea is that you’re getting “revenge” on the stressors of the day by doing activities that give you pleasure and help you reclaim some “me” time.
The problem is that these activities eat into your sleep time and can cause sleep debt to build up. They can also lead to exhaustion and a wide range of health problems.
READ MORE: Sleep Debt: Is It Possible to Catch up on Lost Sleep?
The term “sleep revenge procrastination” is an English translation of a Chinese expression for delaying your bedtime to regain freedom you may not have during the day due to work or family obligations.
Although not a new concept, it entered the popular vocabulary during the pandemic, when the stress of lockdowns impacted many people’s sleeping patterns.
Revenge sleep procrastination is particularly prevalent among people with ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder). According to the Diagnostic And Statistical Manual Of Mental Disorders, ADHD is one of the most common neurodevelopmental disorders, affecting nearly 3% of people worldwide.
Although it’s possible to live a happy, healthy life as an adult with ADHD, it does come with its challenges, and many people with ADHD report having trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, and waking up in the morning.
Oura members can consult their Sleep Score each morning to gain crucial insights about their sleep quality and how revenge sleep procrastination may be affecting it.
Dr. Chris Winter, a neurologist and sleep researcher at Charlottesville Neurology and Sleep Medicine clinic in Virginia, USA, says: “Sleep and ADHD have a complicated relationship.
First, many people diagnosed with ADHD are incorrectly diagnosed as such and actually have underlying sleep disorders that create sleep disruptions and their symptoms (which is why the stimulants often help). Stimulant use can also create difficulties initiating sleep as they are acting to facilitate wakefulness.”
If you’re struggling with revenge bedtime procrastination and think it might be linked to ADHD, read on to discover why that may be and what you can do about it.
Why People with ADHD May Be Prone to Revenge Sleep Procrastination
The ADHD brain is wired a little differently than a neurotypical brain and can cause revenge sleep procrastination in a number of ways. Let’s explore some of the most common.
Studies suggest that ADHD is linked to lower levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine, which is responsible for feelings of pleasure, satisfaction, and motivation.
Therefore, people with ADHD are naturally prone to seek out activities that produce dopamine — which can lead to staying up late at night seeking a hit, especially if you don’t get enough stimulation during the day or don’t have time for activities that you enjoy.
According to Dr. Winter, “With disorders of attention, individuals often work to create stress, excitement, or danger in their lives to facilitate vigilance and attention. Again, these are also behaviors that individuals with excessive sleepiness utilize to facilitate wakefulness and concentration.”
Research shows that poor sleep is common among people who have ADHD. One reason for this could be that ADHD can disrupt the normal sleep-wake cycle, or circadian rhythm, making it difficult to fall asleep at a regular bedtime.
These disruptions to circadian rhythms can result in a preference for a later bedtime, with many people with ADHD reporting that they feel a sudden burst of energy late at night.
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Additionally, having trouble sleeping is a known side effect of ADHD medication, although paradoxically, it can also help others get better sleep.
However, incorrect dosage or timing of ADHD medication can keep you up at night.
One of the most common characteristics of ADHD is having difficulty with self-regulation — this includes impulsivity, hyper-focus, dopamine-seeking behavior, and problems with transitions from one activity to another.
All these factors can lay the groundwork for revenge bedtime procrastination — whether it’s impulsive binge-watching, getting hyper-focused on a random topic and falling down an internet rabbit hole, seeking dopamine hits from social media, games, or dating apps, or simply not finding the motivation to get off the sofa and get ready for bed.
Dr. Winter adds, “To some degree, the act of going to bed is a choice that relies on motivation and discipline. For some patients with ADHD, they struggle with the mere decision to turn off the television or phone and go to bed. This not only compounds the attention issues but creates issues related to sleep deprivation that can cloud the clinical picture.”
Some people with ADHD have a tendency to lose track of time. This phenomenon is known as time blindness, and it means that some people simply don’t realize it’s time to go to bed — despite their best intentions.
Oura’s Bedtime Guidance tool can help you stay accountable. With this feature, Oura looks for patterns in your data — what time you went to sleep when you received a high Sleep Score, your resting heart rate levels, etc. — that allow Oura to guide you in the right direction. If you start going to bed later while still waking up early, Oura will advise you to begin preparing for bed earlier to make up for lost sleep.
If you know you’re going to lie awake at night worrying about the future or ruminating over the past, it can be tempting to stay up late and keep your brain occupied to avoid these thoughts and the feelings that accompany them.
The Consequences of Revenge Sleep Procrastination
We know that a lack of sleep can cause a range of problems for anyone, whether they have ADHD or not, including impaired cognitive function (memory, focus, and concentration), a weakened immune system, mental health conditions, and even heart problems.
Revenge sleep procrastination and the sleep deprivation that comes with it make it harder to think quickly, pay attention, remember things, make decisions, and mitigate stress and anxiety.
Additionally, people with ADHD tend to experience emotional dysregulation, and studies indicate they’re more likely to experience anxiety and substance abuse disorders, which can be aggravated by not getting enough sleep.
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5 Ways to Stop Revenge Sleep Procrastination if You Have ADHD
The good news is that many people with ADHD have successfully overcome their revenge bedtime procrastination habits, and you can, too. Here are five ways to take back control of your sleep.
1. Track Your Sleep
Using a sleep tracker like Oura Ring can help you take the guesswork out of fixing your sleeping habits and getting better sleep. To establish a baseline, it’s a good idea to track how many hours of sleep you get per night, including how much time you spend in each sleep stage (Deep Sleep, Light Sleep, and REM Sleep).
READ MORE: What Are the 4 Stages of Sleep?
Looking at the clock when you go to bed and when you wake up may not provide an accurate measure of how many hours of sleep you’re getting, so it’s best to use a wearable device, such as an Oura Ring, to track how much time you spend in bed versus how much time you sleep — aka, your sleep efficiency.
Oura members can also use the Tags feature to track their behaviors and habits, and see how they impact their sleep quality over time.
2. Practice Good Sleep Hygiene
Incorporating healthy habits throughout the day and evening that help your body regulate its circadian rhythm and prepare for a good night’s sleep is known as sleep hygiene.
Here are a few ways you could optimize your sleep hygiene:
- Go to bed and wake up around the same time, even on weekends — this is essential for regulating circadian rhythms.
READ MORE: Circadian Rhythms and Your Bedtime
- Avoid screens for at least an hour before bed to minimize blue light exposure. Since people with ADHD tend to wake easily, charge your devices in another room or set up focus mode features to reduce disturbances.
READ MORE How Blue Light Impacts Your Sleep
- Avoid eating late at night or consuming coffee or alcohol right before bed.
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- Optimize your environment for better quality shuteye. Make sure your room is cool, dark, and quiet, and try to keep work or entertainment activities out of the bedroom.
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- Incorporate some relaxing activities into your bedtime routine to help you wind down at the end of the day. This may include journaling, meditation, stretching, or breathing exercises. Oura members can use the Explore Tab to access guided meditations that help them relax and fall asleep more easily.
READ MORE: Try OURA’s Guided Sleep Meditations for Deep and Restful Sleep
- Avoid taking naps during the day, as this can make it harder to fall asleep at night.
READ MORE: How Long Should You Nap?
3. Carve Out Time for Yourself During the Day
A lack of leisure time is often a hidden culprit of revenge sleep procrastination, as it can lead to staying up later than usual to squeeze in activities you enjoy.
If your responsibilities allow it, try to carve out pockets of free time throughout the day and dedicate that time to yourself. This can help create more balance and reduce the likelihood of revenge bedtime procrastination.
4. Optimize Your Medication and Supplements
ADHD medications can improve sleep quality for some and make it worse for others. If you suspect medication may be interfering with your sleep, consult your doctor about changing the dosage or switching to a slow or extended-release option.
“If your experience is less than ideal, discuss the results with your doctor so that necessary adjustments can be made,” Dr. Winter advises.
READ MORE: Everything You Need to Know about Melatonin
5. Go Easy on Yourself
Self-compassion is the name of the game when it comes to overcoming revenge sleep procrastination. Don’t expect to change your habits overnight, and don’t stress out if you don’t hit your goals right away.
Instead, give yourself time to adjust and celebrate the small wins along the way.
Overcome Revenge Sleep Procrastination with Oura
Breaking out of the revenge sleep procrastination cycle requires breaking bad habits and committing to new, more beneficial ones.
Oura Ring members can leverage data on movement, temperature, heart rate, and heart rate variability (HRV) throughout the night to understand their sleep patterns and identify anything that might be disturbing them.
This information can provide valuable insights into the effects of revenge sleep procrastination and what habits you can implement to support better sleep. It also allows you to experiment with different nighttime schedules and routines and see what works best for you.
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