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Updated: Jul 15, 2023

Nope, not The Princess Bride or Kill Bill type of revenge. I mean the self-sabotaging sort. Now, if you are a COVID-19, work full time while managing your kids’ on-line school at home person, just stop reading now and go make yourself a cup of tea with that time. Save this for when the pandemic is over, the kids are in school, and you’ve been able to take some vacation time. If that’s not you, read on.

In the typical Chinese fashion of deceptively succinct diagnosis, you may recently have heard of bàofùxìng áoyè or “revenge bedtime procrastination.” This happens when the part of you in charge of how your time is spent makes you so busy for so long that there is no time for self or for recovery during the day. In consequence, another part of you gets subversive and refuses to sleep at a ‘decent hour’ in order to have free time – maybe surfing the net, watching a show, texting with friends, or connecting through social media – despite creating a sleep deficit that will cause its own issues.

Why do we care? Sleep deficit is a global health crisis. And I don’t just mean for people who operate heavy machinery during their day job. To be blunt, “The shorter your sleep, the shorter your life span.” Author and physician Matthew Walker provides this context: sleeping less than seven hours a night is on par with being a smoker. I whole-heartedly recommend his book, Why We Sleep. If you don’t have time for a whole book in your lifestyle right now, see the on-line summary at the link just above.

It's a dilemma; without personal down-time, it is hard to get a good night’s sleep. We need time to wind down and put away the meeting that went sideways, the tantrum of the 4 year old, and the person who flipped you off while cutting you off. So, in order to get you to sleep, a portion of yourself stays up later enjoying some personal time. Acupuncture might be an alternative for you. I know it sounds counter-intuitive to suggest putting needles in you will cause relaxation but it can and it does. Perhaps that would be a way to minimize the amount of revenge time needed for a good night’s sleep, getting you not only good quality but a good quantity too. Wouldn't you rather get acupuncture for relaxation than for the long list of ailments that lack of sleep can cause? Sleep prevents many illnesses as it can measurably reduce risk for heart disease and improve your immune system.

Ironically, more sleep can also “measurably improve your memory, overall cognitive performance, ability to learn new information, receptivity to facial cues, mood, ability to handle problems, metabolism....” In other words, more sleep would likely make you more productive at work and thus shorten the time you need to spend there to get the same amount of work done. Just sayin’.

If you are experiencing revenge bedtime procrastination, it is time to take your schedule demands, and its personal tolls, seriously. In honor of Daylight Savings when most of us in the continental U.S. lose an hour of sleep, the National Sleep Foundation is promoting Sleep Awareness Week. Their website contains lots of resources to educate you about getting better quality and quantity of sleep. OK, now shut down this screen and say good night.


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