If our modern lifestyle was put under the microscope of an otherworldly entity or a time-travelling adventurer from the past, it may prove quite challenging to explain some of the personal struggles we face as we roll credits on 2021. That would be one complex petri dish to explain.

Over-worked, over-stretched individuals, juggling the powers that be whether they be long hours at work, family or personal life responsibilities, any kind of activity that basically needs to be performed at specific intervals… trading sleep for decompression. Late-night decompression that seems to provide no obvious solace to anything else happening in people’s lives, and easily perceived as a sacrifice of one’s precious sleep.

Often referred to as ‘revenge bedtime procrastination’, this time, however long it may be, seems to have spread even more under the recent remote working shift in most industries. According to the 501 non-profit National Sleep Foundation, this phenomenon describes the decision to sacrifice sleep for leisure time that is driven by a daily schedule lacking in free time. So, the main components for this “staying up late as retaliation”, referred to as ‘bàofùxìng áoyè’ by the Chinese, are basically awareness that this delay will reduce one’s sleep time, the absence of a valid reason for doing so and the understanding that sleep depravation leads to negative results for one’s health.

Revenge sleep procrastination appears to be tied to significant daytime stress and according to a 2019 study, related to the Bedtime Procrastination Scale (BPS), it appears as more prevalent among students and women.

Basically, people often choose to reclaim the time they feel they are due at the end to the day. A sense of freedom with a side of a conscious decision to surf online, read the news, play videogames or scroll through social media instead of turning in for the day, comes as consolation for those whose leisure time has either always been minimal or has been reduced by blurry work hours over the past couple of years. Translators and online instructors, often faced with the perils of prolonged workdays and the challenges of working around deadlines or rescheduled training sessions, often experience this need to “take back” their time.

Philips’ annual global sleep survey in 2019 lead to the “The Global Pursuit of Better Sleep Health” report, stating that although most people today acknowledge the contribution of sleep to overall health, for many, achieving quality sleep health remains elusive.

As the pandemic jumbled up workhours for much of the workforce and quarantine periods came to further disrupt downtime, this phenomenon gained even more traction. Not to mention that the extensive screen time of remote work has already proven disruptive to sleep patterns. The autonomy experienced when we choose to spend time in a way we understand “is not ideal” for us also contains an often attractive rebellious component.

Thankfully, we are wired to seek improvement of all our life’s aspects, including our pursuit of a good night’s sleep, and studies and remedies to this persistent late-night habit are seeing a much needed focus by the medical community.

Setting boundaries and persisting on self-regulation is often recommended in order to avoid this unsustainable take on winding down. Setting a bed-time alarm or using a similar application on your phone could help restrict your late-night online surfing or browsing time. Carving out leisure time in a structured manner during the day, specifically adding this downtime to your calendar is also a popular habit people are picking up. The idea is to experience this well-deserved break within the day so the feeling of being owed some personal time is calibrated better.

Ultimately, personal health is personal health and adopting relaxation and stress-management techniques that best work for us is just as important as accepting that we cannot fit everything in one day. So the hunt for the elusive good night sleep continues…

Written by Emily Yerolatsiti, LTES Senior Academic Coordinator