Idaho, Iowa, Des Moines
September 30, 2022

Revenge Bedtime Procrastination and ADHD: Why It Happens and How to Manage It

We all know sleep is important. It gives us energy, helps balance our moods and hormones, and prepares us for the challenges of the day. And we all know how shitty it feels to get a poor night’s sleep. Revenge bedtime procrastination is the phenomenon of deliberately delaying sleep in order to soak up the quiet bedtime hours, and it’s a big reason for sleep issues among adults. 

Revenge bedtime procrastination is a response to stress or lack of free time during the day. At night, many people feel like they can finally relax and take time to themselves – taking “revenge” on the stressors and chaos of the earlier day. They look for something easy to distract or entertain themselves with, and technology like Netflix and social media are the most accessible forms of distraction and entertainment. This retaliation can feel great in the moment, but ultimately can lead to exhaustion and grogginess the next day. And then they have to drag themselves through another busy day, and the cycle continues. Sound familiar? 

Revenge Sleep Procrastination and ADHD

Although revenge sleep procrastination affects lots of neurotypical people, there are a lot of links between ADHD and staying up detrimentally late. People with ADHD have been found to be naturally more nocturnal than those without ADHD. The scientific literature also points to a correlation between ADHD and insomnia. 

There are many reasons why people with ADHD struggle with sleeping enough. In general, self-regulation difficulties are central to ADHD. They cause a range of challenges that can lay the groundwork for revenge bedtime procrastination. 

For one thing, people with ADHD are wired to have more impulsive behaviors. That means they tend to make more decisions that might not be in their best interests. While people with neurotypical brains may find it easier to put down their phones at night and start their bedtime routines, people with ADHD are more likely to have a hard time doing that because they’re more impulsive. 

Hyperfocus is also something that can keep people with ADHD up into the wee hours. People with ADHD have a tendency to hyperfocus on something and obsess over it, which can make winding down for bed much harder. Many people with ADHD hyperfocus on a new interest and stay up all night researching it or engaging in it.  People with ADHD feel drawn beyond reason to their activity and don’t know how to shut off the part of their brain that obsesses over these things. Obviously, sleep doesn’t come easily when you can’t stop thinking about something. 

Dopamine-seeking behavior is another issue resulting in ADHD revenge sleep procrastination. Seeking dopamine might look different from person to person, but the basic idea is that people with ADHD are driven to get more feel-good chemicals – even if they end up feeling worse later. Scrolling through Instagram or TikTok might provide boosts of dopamine and make you feel good in the moment, but those feelings don’t last. 

Utilizing poor time management skills throughout the day can also cause revenge bedtime procrastination later at night. Effective time management plagues many people with ADHD, and so they may feel busier and stressed throughout the day because they feel like they can’t get everything done. So when it’s finally time to wind down for bed, they use that time to instead get some well-deserved leisure in. Which sometimes means hopping on social media or watching 3 movies in a row. 

Having difficulty with transitions is yet another challenge that can factor into bedtime procrastination. People with ADHD often have a harder time switching seamlessly from one activity to another. So to ease that transition, they might try something like bingeing their favorite Netflix series… Until 4am. Whoops. 

It’s easy to see why all these challenges can wreak cumulative havoc on the sleep and bedtime habits of people with ADHD. Those hours can feel like your reward for getting through the day. Finally, there are no distractions – just you and the light of your phone screen. It feels unfair to have to give that time up for sleep. And fighting your brain’s chemistry can be exhausting and leave you feeling discouraged. But don’t despair – there is hope for reclaiming your days and nights. 

revenge sleep procrastination adhd

Revenge Sleep Procrastination and ADHD: Strategies to Break the Habit and Get Better Sleep

Being proactive in managing your stress and daily life is key to breaking your revenge sleep procrastination habit. A healthy daytime routine – with plenty of exercise, sunlight, self care, and stress management techniques – is an important piece of the puzzle. Here are some strategies to break the cycle of revenge sleep procrastination with ADHD. 

Set a bedtime alarm. Because time management skills are a challenge for many people with ADHD, it can help to set a bedtime alarm at night when you want to start winding down. Many of my clients find success in setting a couple of alarms – one as a 20-minute warning, and then a second one as a final call. You can also download third-party apps to your phone to keep you from continuing to scroll. 

Exercise during the day. Moving your body is crucial to stress management, and regular exercise also provides boosts of feel-good chemicals and dopamine in your brain. Getting regular activity can help regulate your moods and make you more tired at night. 

Manage your anxiety. If you find you start to ruminate on thoughts and worries as soon as you lie down, consider anxiety management a priority. This looks different for different people. Some prefer a “brain dump” journal exercise, in which they set a timer and then write down whatever comes to mind. This can help process emotions and worries and induce calm. Other people may prefer rearranging their days to prioritize self-care and time to themselves. Still others prefer working with a therapist, who can help you with a more individualized plan.  

Distract your brain with something other than your thoughts. If racing thoughts are your biggest issue at bedtime, quell those thoughts by replacing them with something else. Try a guided sleep meditation or listen to a podcast. The trick is to focus your brain on something relaxing and engaging but not too stimulating. For many people with ADHD, this can help soothe and distract their brain from racing. 

A Therapist and Coach Can Help With Your Revenge Bedtime Procrastination and ADHD

I understand what it’s like to be stuck on the hamster wheel of taxing days and lost sleep.  If ADHD is posing a significant challenge to your bedtime routine and you want support, I can help. Together, we can create goal-setting strategies to get better sleep and feel less stressed throughout your day. 

During our work together, you’ll learn how ADHD is affecting your days and nights, coping skills to manage your stress and leisure time, and how to cut revenge bedtime procrastination out of your routine for a better, healthier life. 

I’m ready if you are. Reach out today to get started.

Meet the author

Danielle Wayne

Danielle is an anxiety therapist and perfectionism coach. She specializes in helping busy millennials dial down their anxiety and ADHD, so they can perform at their best. Danielle has been featured on Apartment Therapy, SparkPeople, Lifewire, and Now Art World. When Danielle isn't helping her clients, she's playing video games or spending time with her partner and step children.

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