Revenge bedtime procrastination: Why people stay up late scrolling through phones

25 May 2024 10:00am
Photo for illustration purposes only. - 123RF
Photo for illustration purposes only. - 123RF

SHAH ALAM - People who sacrifice their sleep to indulge in leisure activities often attribute it to a way of escaping reality, forming a habit or seeking a sense of control over their time.

This behaviour, called revenge bedtime procrastination has become more common in today's digital world.

Despite knowing the negative effects on their health, many continued to scroll through their phones late at night.

For Aqilah Nordin, 22, staying up all night was a coping mechanism for dealing with extreme sadness. She said scrolling through her devices helped her manage her emotions, while trying to sleep, often led to bad thoughts, overthinking and having a restless mind.

She added that she was unable to sleep early and her usual bedtime on weekdays was around 1am to 2am, however on the weekends, she would usually sleep after dawn.

"Sometimes I get too engrossed in scrolling social media until I lose track of time and it's almost morning.

"However, I think that scrolling on social media is one way to escape from reality, as it can boost my mood and it is a form of self-reward after a long day of work," she told Sinar Daily.

Aqilah said her struggle with sleep began in secondary school when she got her own phone. With no parental oversight, she developed a habit of staying up late to chat with her friends, scroll through social media like Twitter and TikTok and played games.

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She said she noticed changes in herself since then which included feeling tired, irritable and having mood swings, which affected her social interactions.

Physically, she said she experienced weakness, fatigue, acne, dark circles and dull skin, making her more prone to illness.

"I've tried to sleep early before, even staying awake for two days just to do so. It was quite a struggle.

"I've also taken sleeping pills in the past, but I realised that relying on medication isn't a good long-term solution. Despite trying, I can't seem to change the habit," she said.

Meanwhile, Faza Nazahah, 26, said she tends to turn her phone on when she feels sad or anxious to find comfort and distraction.

She said she also tends to procrastinate going to bed almost every night, particularly when she felt stressed or overwhelmed with work.

"It's like a way to escape from all the stress and just zone out for a while. I think my tendency to stay up late scrolling also has to do with my emotions sometimes.

"I stay awake scrolling through my phone because I find it entertaining and I don't want to feel like I'm missing out on anything happening online.

"Even though I know I should be going to bed. Sometimes, scrolling before sleep has become a habit," she said when contacted.

Faza added that she usually spent most of her time on social media applications like Instagram, TikTok and Twitter, or any streaming platforms to watch dramas.

However, she said she often felt tired and groggy the next day, making it hard for her to concentrate or focus on anything.

She said her mood could also be affected and sometimes she even felt a bit down or depressed.

"I have tried sleeping early and sometimes it works. I usually try to sleep early when I have work early in the morning. To me, early is sleeping at around midnight to 1pm.

"It's like my brain is wired to want to stay up late and scroll and there's just so much content online to explore, knowing that I must work for the whole day tomorrow," she added.

Faza said she also adopted healthier bedtime routines like reading, stretching or meditation.

Acknowledging the importance of setting a consistent bedtime in order to prioritise her overall health and well-being, she said she also tried to be more mindful to limit phone usage before bedtime and disconnect at least an hour before sleep.

While it was a work in progress, she hoped to achieve a healthier balance with time.

Meanwhile, Izzat Fahmi, 19, said his motivation to stay up late using his phone instead of sleeping came from the limited phone usage during school hours.

He said when he's at home, he indulged in using his phone to fulfil that desire, often ending up using it late into the night without realising it.

"I do it almost every day and it also depends on my workload.

"If I have assignments, I'll prioritise completing them before using my phone.

"I believe there are emotions driving me to use my phone instead of resting because if I don't use my phone, I feel like my day is incomplete," he said when contacted.

Izzat said that his typical late-night activities involved playing games with friends and browsing through TikTok, Twitter, Netflix and Instagram.

He also noted that experiencing negative effects from staying up late, including rapid mood changes, such as easily becoming angry over small things and feeling fatigued or lethargic quickly.

He attempted to change this behaviour before, but the challenge he faced was difficulty falling asleep because even when he closed his eyes, his brain kept thinking, making it hard for him to sleep and eventually, he reverted to his previous behaviour.

"One strategy I've found to reduce the frequency of late-night phone use is disciplining myself to limit phone usage late at night because getting enough sleep has many benefits for our well-being," he added.

Izzat's approach to balancing the desire for leisure activities before bed with the need for restful sleep involved disciplining himself and limiting phone use.

He also sought information about the benefits of adequate sleep.