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  • Writer's picturePetra

Sleep and ADHD: Revenge Bedtime Procrastination

So you know how some nights you just can't seem to fall asleep? You toss and turn, check your phone, and maybe even get up to do something else for a bit. Well, revenge bedtime procrastination is when you intentionally stay up late, even though you know you should be sleeping, just so you can have some time to yourself to do something you enjoy.


It's kind of like a little rebellion against your busy daytime schedule. You might feel like you don't have enough time to do the things you really enjoy during the day because you're so busy with work, school, or other responsibilities. So when nighttime arrives, you use that time to catch up on your hobbies, watch TV, or just relax without anyone bothering you.


But here's the thing: revenge bedtime procrastination isn't the best way to take care of yourself. Not getting enough sleep can mess with your mood, your energy levels, and your ability to focus and get things done the next day. It can make ADHD symptoms worse. So while it might feel good in the moment, it's not really worth it in the long run. And you already know that! This is about short term thinking taking priority over longer term needs. It happens to everyone, and it's even harder to manage if you have ADHD.


You might find it especially hard to resist the urge to stay up late and indulge in some "me time" at night. You can't rely on remembering to go to bed. Hyperfocusing on something in the evening (probably when stimulant meds have run out for the day and your self-control is weaker), means you may lose sight of time. You are going to need some more salient cues to remind you of bedtime. Yes, I mean alarms. Alarms on your phone, or your Alexa or Google home device, or computer or other device. An alarm will be needed to alert you to the fact that it is time to start getting ready for bed. Here are some steps you can take:


  1. Choose a time for an alarm that will give you time to start performing a bedtime routine

  2. Choose a routine that works for you. Maybe you can't do all the bedtime steps at once. Maybe you brush you teeth any time you visit the bathroom after 8pm. Maybe you further break up tasks so getting ready doesn't seem so daunting.

  3. Another alarm may be needed to remind you to actually go to bed as you might have become side-tracked and pulled back into an activity. Think how long it takes to perform your bedtime routine and set an alarm for that time.

  4. When you're in bed, try very hard to put your phone down. I don't have to tell you how easy it is to start scrolling on your phone. See if you can put it on the other side of the room, or better yet, outside the room. Any distance will reduce the likelihood that you will retrieve it.


Some additional general advice about sleep is to stick to a relatively fixed sleep and waking time seven days a week to strengthen your circadian rhythm, and to perform some exercise during the day. Getting around 30 minutes of daylight in the morning, and reducing light exposure in evening hours by putting blue light filters on devices or wearing sunglasses can also be useful to strengthen circadian rhythm.


  • Click here for a one-hour ADHD Experts podcast on revenge bedtime procrastination, with some good practical strategies to help manage it. Here's some of the same information in article form.

  • Click here for a surprisingly good deep dive on Wikipedia into what circadian rhythm is and how it is entrained and shifted.

  • And finally, click here for a deep dive into sleep in general and circadian rhythm, by neuroscientist Dr Andrew Huberman.




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