Revenge bedtime procrastination came up as a topic of discussion on Micro.blog a little while ago (I believe it was brought up by @omrrc and @jean). It’s easy to fall into this practice, which is one in which you stay up late doing all manner of meaningless things just because the time before you go to bed is the only time that feels like your own. You mindlessly scroll through Twitter or vapid news headlines. You play a dumb game on your phone. Many times, this procrastination is done to counteract a day full of meeting demands and the expectations of others. For me, the late evening is sometimes the only part of the day when I don’t feel bad. So, even as my health improves, I’ve still found myself in a pattern of looking at that time as window of opportunity.
Anne Helen Peterson recently took on the subject in her newsletter. She dives into the ways this behavior is a self-sabotaging, because of course losing sleep doesn’t help us in the short or long run.
It’s illogical and annoying and only makes things worse. But it’s also what our souls do when we refuse to nourish them. They sabotage our most perfect intentions for sleep, because sleep is not the same as leisure.
A commenter, Leah Libresco Sargeant, noticed the parallel between this behavior and this particular passage in The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis.
As the uneasiness and reluctance to face it cut him off more and more from all real happiness, and as habit renders the pleasures the vanity and excitement and flippancy at once less pleasant and harder to forgo…you will find that anything or nothing is sufficient to attract his wandering attention. You no longer need a good book, which he really likes, to keep him from his prayers or his work or his sleep; a column of advertisements in yesterday’s paper will do. You can make him waste his time not only in conversation he enjoys with people whom he likes, but also in conversations with those he cares nothing about, on subjects that bore him. You can make him do nothing at all for long periods. You can keep him up late at night, not roistering, but staring at a dead fire in a cold room. All the healthy and outgoing activities which we want him to avoid can be inhibited and nothing given in return, so that at last he may say…”I now see that I spent most my life doing in doing neither what I ought nor what I liked.”
This passage, of course, is the voice of the reliably bad Uncle Screwtape, teaching his dear demonic nephew Wormwood how to ruin a person’s life. Given the strength of Lewis’ apologetics in the book, and the arguments for resisting temptations, I truly now have a different perspective on putting off bedtime.