The curse of revenge bedtime procrastination

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LATELY I have been staying up past my bedtime. I’m an early bird by nature and usually like to be fast asleep by 10pm. This past week or so, though, there’s been a creeping slide in the time I turn off the light and allow myself to sink into the pitch darkness.

I find myself scrolling aimlessly through social media, sending messages to friends and family, skimming books, pottering about doing nothing of note or idling on the sofa, hell-bent on watching the entirety of a programme I could easily finish later.

The next morning, I wake bleary-eyed, stumble to the kitchen, mainline some coffee and tell myself I will definitely go to bed earlier that night. Only to repeat the whole sorry cycle again.

There’s a name for it. It seems I’m suffering from what has been dubbed “revenge bedtime procrastination”. The idea being that we put off going to sleep in order to claw back a feeling of control or having some “me time” to ourselves.

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Winter lockdowns are tough. During the spring and summer months, even through the autumn, I was spending more time outdoors than cooped up inside, mostly mucking about in the garden or exploring the skinny woods behind my house.

I’ve realised procrastination is my feeble way of railing against the stifling constraints of lockdown. In my younger years, I travelled extensively. These days I prefer to stick closer to home. But when sticking closer to home is all you have done for 10 months, then things begin to go a little haywire.

The dreaded curse of ‘revenge bedtime procrastination’. Picture: iStock/PA

It is not so much cabin fever, more that my routine has got badly out of sync. I’ve been being less rigid (mantra: “be good to yourself”) and for a while that feels liberating, but eventually it goes awry, the upshot being an insurmountable mountain of domestic tasks waiting to be tackled.

I usually do laundry on a Saturday morning. Now I find myself randomly throwing a load in the washing machine on a Wednesday evening. I ate Mexican food on a Sunday when everyone knows it should be Taco Tuesdays. As rebellions go it is pretty tame, but it is causing seismic waves.

I’m trying to coax my stubborn self into some semblance of a routine. With the lighter mornings, I have endeavoured to make a small circuit of the garden, peering into all the flower beds and containers in the hope of seeing some shoots.

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I have already been rewarded with the sight of some snowdrops peeking their heads up in a forgotten corner. As I type, I’m watching three squirrels chasing each other in rings around the big tree. There’s a rabbit hoovering up bird seed knocked from the feeders by eager blackbirds.

The crux? I’ve been spending so much time fixated on being stuck inside that I have forgotten to look out. There’s the fluttering of something shifting in my brain. It is time to shake this fug.

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