This habit was sparked by frustration against long working hours and very little personal time.
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Do you stay up really late at night, trying to watch a movie or play a game or read a book, even though there really isn’t many hours left before you need to wake up in the morning?
Sure, you know you should be getting 8 to 9 hours of sleep every night, but no one is prepared to sleep at 10pm to wake up early.
Instead, too many of us engage in a habit called Revenge Bedtime Procrastination. So what is it, and why is it a revenge?
Time is a limited resource
Studies continuously show that we are one of the most overworked countries in the world. Coupled with our terrible traffic, which leads to hours wasted on the roads every day, so much of our time is spent away from home.
Our modern lifestyles also mean that there’s still housework to be done after you return from your employed work. If you have children, then there’s even more things to do at home too.
All this translates to a packed schedule every day. From the time you wake up, there’s work or chores that need doing until late night when you can finally sit on the sofa. By the time you are ready to actually unwind and relax, chances are it’s already past your bedtime.
But are you going to sleep? No way.
That’s where the revenge comes in. The stubborn determination to spend time on yourself despite the late time, because there is just no other time you have.
The National Sleep Foundation defines it as the decision to sacrifice sleep for leisure time that is driven by a daily schedule lacking in free time. The revenge part of it is driven by the frustration modern people feel when a majority of their hours is dedicated to others, with so little time left for themselves.
The phrase was originally coined by Chinese netizens who worked a brutal “996” schedule, which means “from 9am to 9pm, 6 days a week”. For some semblance of personal time in their life, these workers would stay up late to have time for their personal hobbies, hence the term ‘报复性熬夜’, or Revenge Bedtime Procrastination, was born.
The side effects
Of course, there are side effects. And of course the biggest problem with this behaviour is sleep deprivation. (Duh.)
Everyone knows what it feels like to be sleep deprived. You feel lethargic, dull, irritable, and anxious. Your mental capacity decreases too, as it becomes more difficult to think, make decisions, or remember things.
Additionally, your physical health suffers too. Because not getting enough sleep is a stressor, you become more susceptible to illnesses like high blood pressure, diabetes, heart attack, heart failure, stroke, and more.
Chronic sleep deprivation also leads to weight gain, depression, lowered sex drive, and reduced immunity.
If the side-effects of sleep deprivation are already so immediate, imagine doing this to your body long-term!
So what can you do?
It’s understandable that many people simply feel like there’s just no time to get anything done anymore. But if this is the case for you, maybe you need to critically analyze your lifestyle.
Just like money, time is a limited resource and you will need to budget it wisely. Just like how we need to adjust our spending habits, we also need to adjust our habits regarding time.
If you think you spend too much time at work, then make an effort to leave work on time. It is common in Malaysian companies to stay ‘longer’ as a sign of hardwork, but that really just shows incompetence at managing your own time wisely.
If your commute is very long, you can try making that time part of your unwinding process. Sing songs in the car, listen to an audiobook or podcast, or just let your mind wander. If you’re on public transportation, try meditation to calm down your mind and breathing. The goal is to return home without the baggage and stress of the day. If you can do this, your relaxing weeknights are already half-way there!
If you spend too much time on chores and household upkeep, you may need to make certain sacrifices. It’s time to project manage your home, so list down what tasks need to be done, how long it takes, and whether or not it can run concurrently. For example, you can start the laundry, sweep the floor, prepare your meal, and by then your laundry will be done just in time!
Alternatively, if you enjoy cooking or baking, try incorporating that into your time to unwind while also keeping it time-efficiently. Cooking in bulk for many meals is an efficient way to control what you eat while saving time and money. Meal prepping has been very popular in recent years and there are plenty of recipes out there that works great! (And you will only need to cook and clean the kitchen once a week!)
There will always be concerns over the freshness of food, but modern technology exists to make life easier. Our refrigeration technology is way better now and there are plenty of air-tight heat-safe food containers that will keep your food sealed away from bacteria.
But in cases where it simply isn’t possible, then consider alternatives. Perhaps it’s worth it to hire a cleaning service a few times a month in exchange for some proper time to relax and unwind. Perhaps it’s not a failure if you go out to eat or order delivery instead.
At the end of the day, everyone wants to live a comfortable life and be able to at least spend some time on their own personal interests. So instead of giving up your health, try making your life work for you.
Anne is an advocate of sustainable living and the circular economy, and has managed to mum-nag the team into using reusable containers to tapau food. She is also a proud parent of 4 cats and 1 rabbit.