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Revenge Bedtime Procrastination… “I started stealing two hours at night just to write in some silence, go back to sleep then be up again for a morning run… I didn’t know there was a name for it” – Karabo Mokoena, Mom Blogger.

Remember that popular cellphone network TV advert of a man displaying his mood as the week progresses? He starts off Monday on a sombre note and slowly gets hyped as the week progresses, doing the electro slide as soon as Friday hits.

Back then, I danced and sang along in amusement, not knowing that it is a clear depiction of my future work life. I was always looking forward to Friday. Over my working years, a little bit of anxiety would kick in as we headed closer and closer to the weekend. Towards Fridays, I would catalogue all the errands I needed to get done and then realise that the weekend was too short, therefore, I would lose out on ‘me time.’ Consequently, I fell into a pattern of waking up extremely early as a way to gain full control over my day, knowing that as soon as I head out of the house, I would possibly get caught up with the demands the day requires and as a result, forfeit my plans of spending time with self. 

By definition, bedtime procrastination or revenge bedtime procrastination is a psychological phenomenon, where people stay up late or wake up earlier than they desire. This is done in an attempt to have control over their time because they perceive themselves to lack influence over events during the day.

This new pattern introduced me to the energy drinks and coffee gang as I tried to keep up the energy to sustain me throughout the day. I would find myself randomly scheduling nap dates in my car, parked in the basement as I’d be too exhausted to focus. As this persisted, I realised how detrimental it was to my mental and physical health. It is for this reason that I decided to chat with Clinical Psychologist, Nthabiseng Ramothwala to find out how real the phenomenon of revenge bedtime procrastination is and how I could combat it.

“Yes, revenge bedtime procrastination is real. I would only define it differently, based on the intention, how it comes about, and how different people react to their circumstances. Most people postpone sleeping without even realizing that they are doing it. Some do it without a solid reason,” says Ramothwala.

Karabo Mokoena is a mother to a three-year-old and says that by the time she goes to bed, she generally has so much resentment that she didn’t get to do anything for herself. “I end up just sitting quietly with my thoughts, meditating and catching up on some Steven Furtick sermons to fill my cup. However, I’ve noticed how this pattern has messed up my sleeping patterns. On top of that, my daughter still wakes up in the middle of the night meaning that my sleep gets repeatedly disturbed.” I’m constantly exhausted,” she says.

Ramothwala says the impact of revenge bedtime procrastination has on mental health starts with not giving our bodies enough time to rest and get ready for the following day. “When we don’t rest, we deprive our bodies from functioning adequately and our brains therefore cannot process information to its full capacity. We see this in how our mood changes, for example, becoming grumpy or easily irritable.”

She further emphasizes that lack of sleep does not give the brain a chance to bounce back. “It then means that you function at half the desired ability of the mind. It may also result in anxiety as one is not well prepared for the day, basically, functioning at less than 50%. When you’re not ready for the day, your thoughts become negative and your body reacts and feeds into it”.

Karabo jokes that as a working mom, there’s no such thing as enough hours. “As much as I’m freelancing and working from home, there aren’t enough hours in the day. As women we wear so many hats, but the ‘me hat’ is impossible to completely wear because those roles require most of our time. On top of managing my business, I have to manage my household. Where is the time?”

“Time management is something most of us take for granted and we often wonder why we don’t excel in our jobs, our lives, our relationships and other things,” says Ramothwala as she further shares tips on ways to better manage our time;

  1. Be aware of how you spend your time and what is stealing it.

Live intentionally, plan your day daily and follow through. In everything you do, put yourself first, ask yourself how spending your time in a certain way is serving you.

  1. Be selfish with your time and have boundaries to protect it.

Have an activity plan that describes your goals, annually/monthly/weekly/daily. Define your activities to achieve your goals and how much time you will need. 

  1. Decide what is urgent, important, necessary, possible, what you can do and can’t do.

Doing this on a vision board will help in reminding you of your personal objectives and set you on your way to time freedom.

  1. Look at the day from when you wake up, what do you do every hour? 

Let go of what you don’t need, what does not bring you joy and what stresses you.

  1. Lastly, do all you do from a place of love, not fear, and you will find your rhythm.

May is a mental health awareness month. As we reflect, let’s always remember that it is the little things that count. Issues and challenges we face do not magically go away. We need to put in some work to ensure we’re fuelled with the right tools to maintain a healthy outlook in life in order to succeed. Prioritise your mental health and remember to seek professional help should you need to.