“When the alarm clock rings in the morning there is nothing more satisfying than not having to jump out of bed right away. Luxuriating in that delicious half asleep half awake zone is not being self-indulgent, it is a place where answers lie for all sorts of problems.”
–Lynda Shaw in an article for Forbes Magazine
From how we nourish our minds and bodies to how often we practice the art of gratitude, every decision we make is- in some way- shaping the future that stretches out before us. But, while those first moments of waking do set the tone for the day, it seems the power of decisions can be best accessed in our hours of deepest sleep.
Since you are the one most intimately affected by your choices, consider the importance of giving yourself the best possible chances to succeed. While it seems obvious that being awake and alert is important to our decision making process, few of us prioritize sleep as a way to maximize our waking capabilities or improve our future self.
Insufficient Sleep in America
With regard to sleep patterns, The National Sleep Foundation offers some insight into the dilemma facing many American adults. Their research has found that “50 to 70 million Americans are affected by chronic sleep disorders and intermittent sleep problems that can significantly diminish health, alertness, and safety.” Consider how many people’s sleeping patterns are at odds with their ability to make positive decisions.
Not only will a lack of sleep inhibit your ability to make smart decisions, but it also leads to an increased risk of mood disorders, cardiac conditions, weight management problems, blood pressure elevation, Alzheimer’s, and learning challenges.
Sleep’s Effect On Our Self-Control
Willpower is significantly dependent on sleep. An article from the Clemson University’s Department of Psychology asserts that chronic sleep loss and impaired self-control are closely linked. A lack of sleep can lead to difficulty with “daily self-control issues such as resisting impulses and maintaining attentive behavior.”
Self-control- or lack thereof- takes many forms. We use self-control to refrain from participating in activities that may increase our pleasure in the short term but could have highly undesirable, long term effects. For example, a desire to numb our negative emotions may result in self-medication, whether with overindulgence in food or other addictive substances.
Don’t Underestimate the Importance Of Sleep
In a Washington Post article, Thomas Andrillon and Sid Kouider explore the idea that stimuli- such as memories- is not only be processed as we’re asleep but that we also are unknowingly utilizing this information to make decisions. As our understanding of sleep and its impact on the brain continues to evolve, prioritizing healthful sleep will increasingly become the norm.
Imagine a gas tank that starts out at full capacity. Your intention is to drive to a cross-country destination. Unless you are driving an electric car that gets 100’s of miles to the gallon, you won’t get far before the needle indicates you’re nearly empty. When that time comes, you will- with any luck- be in the vicinity of a gas station.
When it comes to your mental reserves, the same is true. Without proper sleep, you will run out of gas before getting to your daily destination. Sleep is high-test fuel for your brain.
So go ahead, take back the power of your sleep. An improvement in your decision making ability has the power to transform every aspect of your life- from your relationships to your health, from your career to your financial well-being.
Are you getting enough sleep each night to maximize your decision making abilities?