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Revenge is sweet…just not before you go to sleep

How is it 4 AM already?

(Five hours earlier) 

Staring at my chemistry recorded lecture (at 2X speed, of course), I struggle to keep my eyes open and can barely tell apart carbon from nitrogen atoms. Seeing how I can, well, barely see clearly anymore, I guess we’ll call it a night. Climbing into bed, I tuck myself under the covers and unlock my phone to set an alarm. My finger hovers over the notorious pink-orange-yellow ombre app. 

Just for five minutes.

Five minutes of scrolling through Instagram turned into five hours of reading through Reddit AITA (“Am I The Asshole?”) scenarios and then binge watching the new season of You on Netflix. 

“But wait, I thought you said you were exhausted?”

Yes, I was, my dear smart(ass) reader. 

Revenge bedtime procrastination is the phenomenon when an individual, who does not have much control over their daytime life, refuses to sleep early to regain some sense of freedom during the late night hours. It is adapted from a Chinese phrase, 报复性熬夜, which means to “take revenge on the day at night.” In other words, the inexplicable urge you feel to check through your Twitter feed right before you go to bed isn’t as unreasonable as you might have thought.

According to psychologist Dr. Briony Leo, the core of revenge bedtime procrastination simmers down to the concept of control. During the daytime, your psyche is bombarded with 75-minute back-to-back lectures, the struggle of eating a bowl of pasta as you edit a final essay due at noon, the hustle of securing a study room down at the Link, and many other tedious responsibilities. By the time you’re done with the day, it’s time to go to bed. With a heavy-loaded, hectic schedule, you are neglected of any leisure time. Given that our minds crave balance, we tend to carve out some of our supposedly sleeping time to just relax and unwind. 

In addition, the concept could be analyzed as the conflict between short term and long term gain. In moments of stress and unproductivity, we tend to favor the short term gain (e.g., the serotonin from watching cute puppy Tik Toks) over the long term gains (e.g., a better life). 

The psychology is quite straightforward. The solution, however, is not. 

As college students, we are constantly reprimanded for not getting enough sleep and reminded of the importance of sleep. Researchers recommend, on average, seven to eight hours of sleep per night, resulting in benefits such as increased productivity, prolonged attention span and proper physical and psychological development. Lack of sleep can have long-term consequences, such as various types of cancer, weight gain, memory complication and mental illnesses. The solution is rather simple: put down your phone, go to sleep. Yet here I am, again, watching a fashion critique of Met Gala’s outfits at 3 AM.

In a nutshell, revenge bedtime procrastination feeds off our lack of self-control. But it’s more than that. We throw ourselves into a positive feedback loop; all it takes is one bad decision the night before. After an exhausting day, we stay up late a couple of hours for our own leisure. The following day, we are exhausted, which decreases our productivity during the daytime and forces us to stay up late to fulfill our responsibilities. Likewise, we stay up a little later just to watch one or two dozen YouTube videos to unwind from the day. It perpetually exacerbates our condition. We sleep late because we’re mentally exhausted, but then we’re physically exhausted because we slept late. 

If this is a recurring issue and is significantly impacting your life satisfaction, it is worth contemplating what aspects of your daily life are causing such a heavy burden. Even making minor adjustments, such as making your coffee the night before, can free up time to establish a balance between work-hard and play-hard. Of course, there is only so much control a student has over a student’s life, a fact many forget to consider. However, it is helpful to perceive your bedtime choices as looking out for the “future you.” As much as I despise generalizing this as a problem of self-control, that is exactly what it is. Trust me, I know how tempting it is to be mindlessly entertained by social media. But, looking at the big picture, you are relinquishing so much of your future for minutes of entertainment. Is it worth it? 

So, please, put down your phone. Leave it on airplane mode if that helps. I assure you that the five second decision you made to not stay up for just five more minutes will benefit you in five years. Don’t use the night to take revenge on the day. Rather, use the night to avenge yourself a better day.

Linda Cao is a Trinity sophomore. Her column runs on alternate Thursdays.

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