Revenge bedtime procrastination: is it to blame for students’ poor sleep?

Amanda Stevens, Staff Writer

In recent years, “revenge bedtime procrastination” has emerged as a newly coined term to explain a phenomenon where people stay up late as a result of not having control over their daytime schedule. Staying awake, even at the expense of their sleep schedule, provides a sense of freedom and taking back time for themselves.
The term originated in China, which has a rigorous “996 schedule” where many companies have employees work from nine in the morning to nine in the evening, six days a week.
While the term may have been popularized in China, it’s applicable to many people worldwide, adults and teenagers alike.
In the US, the CDC says that adults should get at least 7 hours of sleep, but estimates that 1 in 3 adults do not meet this recommendation.
Students 13-18 years old should get 8-10 hours of sleep, but the CDC has found that about 70% of high school students don’t get the recommended amount of sleep on school nights.
However, it would appear that even more students at Hayes do not get “enough” sleep.

Based on a survey of 288 students at Hayes regarding their sleep habits, approximately 85% said they get less than 8 hours of sleep on average on school nights.
While half of the students said they got 6-7 hours of sleep, 15.6% said they get 3 hours or less of sleep.
Some students cite phones and other electronic devices as a factor in poor sleep, especially since the blue light emitted by these devices can suppress the release of melatonin, a hormone that helps with the timing of sleep.
In general, teenagers’ biological clocks or circadian rhythms, naturally do not produce melatonin until a later time. Therefore, the use of electronic devices at night can delay melatonin secretion and sleep overall.
Of the students surveyed, over 82% said they often use their phones before bed, but only 60% said electronic devices impacted their sleep.
In comparison, 80% of students attributed stress and anxiety to poor sleep, and 76% said that staying up to study or do homework is a factor as well.
“School stresses students out so much, and most people I talk to say that they’re up doing homework or thinking about stuff they need to get done for school,” freshman Jayvier Tatman said.
Just getting to sleep at all can be particularly difficult when students finish the day knowing they still have a lot of work to do.
“I feel that people stay up late because they are afraid of the responsibilities the following day,” senior Adam Willis said. “It’s almost as if they feel being awake will postpone tomorrow.”

I feel that people stay up late because they are afraid of the responsibilities the following day. It’s almost as if they feel being awake will postpone tomorrow.

— Adam Willis

Many students recognize that their daytime schedules are often packed, and as a result, nighttime is the only time they have for leisure.
Based on the survey, 91% of students said they often or sometimes stay up late, even if they are tired.
“At night, we have no responsibilities. We could stay up for hours upon hours and there will be no utter consequences aside from messing up our sleeping schedules,” junior Madalynn Simpson said. “We’re not expected to be something or do things during the night. It’s like our alone time with ourselves…Being up late is freeing, and that’s why I think so many of us are constantly staying up even if it means not getting enough sleep.”

Being up late is freeing, and that’s why I think so many of us are constantly staying up even if it means not getting enough sleep.

— Madalynn Simpson

Though revenge bedtime procrastination is not completely understood yet, the intention-behavior gap is one explanation of individuals who do it since they usually know how to and want to get enough sleep, but fail to do so.
“I believe it isn’t on purpose or wanting to torture ourselves of why we stay up,” sophomore Kylie Magaw said. “But, after hours of school, plus extra-curriculars, on top of time with family and friends we have to balance at such a young age with no idea of time management, we take the time we have to chill out on our phones or TV as a distraction for granted.”
Studies have shown that adolescents get less sleep as they get older, but if given the opportunity, they will get an average of 9 hours and 20 minutes of sleep.
The reality is that many students have to wake up early to attend school. Over 70% of students said that the school start time was a factor that impacted their sleep and that they were tired in the morning.
When students don’t get enough sleep, they are affected in various ways beyond being tired in the morning. A night of poor sleep can affect mood, the ability to concentrate, memory and overall energy levels. Chronic sleep deprivation is linked with cardiovascular problems, obesity, immunodeficiency and diabetes, among other things.
“When I don’t get enough sleep, I get into a bad mood and often take it out on others. I also can’t concentrate on anything,” junior Liam Waselko said. “I know a lot of people also have sleep issues, and the early school starting time doesn’t help anything either.”
Besides phones, extracurriculars, schoolwork and an early school start time, some students deal with sleep disorders or mental health problems that affect their ability to get sleep.
Even though students are aware that not getting enough sleep can be harmful, they ask that adults be understanding of what they’re experiencing and that they not pressure students to get more sleep.
“Mental health is a big issue with a lot of teens and it was even before the pandemic,” sophomore Parker Jones said. “A lot of what teens need is support from people their age who understand them as people and understand their reactions.”