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Make Better Decisions - Sleep On It

Updated on September 13, 2016
Why actually sleeping on a decision may help you make a better choice.
Why actually sleeping on a decision may help you make a better choice. | Source

Think About It and Sleep On It

When you are faced with a major decision, your boss or adviser may have told you, "Sleep on it." Presumably, this will give you time to think about the pros and cons, and avoid making a rash, rushed decision.

There are many reasons that sleeping on it helps you with your big problem or decision. Some of them have to do with simply having more time, while others actually about the act of sleeping. Some of these reasons are based on studies that will help us prove that sleeping on it actually works and is not just an old wives' tale.

Avoid Rash and Rushed Judgments and Decisions

By telling you to sleep on it, your manager or whoever presented the idea is also communicating to you that this is an important decision and not one that should be treated lightly. You may find that it is a bigger time commitment or require a greater sacrifice than you initially envisioned.

One benefit of being told to sleep on it is that you get more time to think about your decision. You can weigh the pros and cons, conduct internet and other research, and ask your loved ones what they think. You also get time to come up with questions and issues that you may not have considered when you first heard the original idea.

Save the important decisions for when you are not tired and suffering the effects of sleep deprivation.
Save the important decisions for when you are not tired and suffering the effects of sleep deprivation. | Source

Lets you think when you are at your best

Especially if you are tired, you may not be capable of thinking through all of the intricacies and long term consequences of your decision. You will also be able to look at the issue in a fresh perspective in the morning.

The image on the right shows that when you are sleep deprived, you may have some cognitive impairment, memory losses, and impaired moral judgment. Even if you are not sleep deprived, you will suffer from these effects when you are tired.

Adds Impulse Control

Another benefit to simply waiting is to avoid impulsive tendencies. While you may initially want to buy a new motorcycle or naughty lingerie, after some time has passed, you may decide that you were caught up in the sales pitch, and really don't need or can't afford a new one.

You can get away from the sales pitch and the excitement of the marketing atmosphere, and think through whether you really need the item and whether you can afford it. This will also give you time to think about your other priorities and see how this purchase will fit into the mix.

Less Stress

According to the description on Amazon for Sleep for Success: Everything You Must Know About Sleep but Are too Tired to Ask by Dr. James B. Mass and Rebecca Robbins, sleep reduces stress.

Given the present, stress-inducing state of the economy and the world, there has never been a better time to provide a wake-up call on how to relax, get centered, get eight hours of sleep, and be happier and more successful. Recent research has shown us that when we get enough sleep, we are able to accomplish more in less time and with less stress and greater health.

If you make a decision when you are less stressed, you may be able to think through the various factors quickly and be able to find a solution that will work long term. You may even come up with additional options that hadn't considered.

This lady is making better decisions by using unconscious thoughts to help her.
This lady is making better decisions by using unconscious thoughts to help her. | Source

Experience Unconscious Thought

Dr. Martaan Bos of Radboud University in Nijmegen and Amy Cuddy of Harvard Business School have presented research studies that suggest that while thinking through a decision can be helpful, sometimes it is better to let your unconscious mind handle it. Clearheaded, logical, conscious thought may lead us to have greater confidence in our decisions, but they may give too much weight to factors that are not as important. Unconscious thought, on the other hand, works in the background while you are doing something else, like sleeping.

In short, sleeping on a decision allows us to differentiate between the vital and the irrelevant aspects, ultimately leading to higher quality decisions. Our unconscious can process large amounts of information — as long as we give it time to do so.

They found that unconscious thought supports the kind of mental organization needed for making complex decisions. It can handle larger volume of information, and actually fuels the creative process.

He found that conscious thought was good for selecting options based on a certain decision rule, but the unconscious thought helped select good, intuitive options based on an aggregate of different decision rules.

He suggests this guidance on how to enlist the help of your subconscious in decision making.

  1. Take in all the information.
  2. Sleep on it
  3. Check the facts again, because the subconscious is not as precise as the conscious.

Conscious Decision Making Tips

  • Ask questions to make sure you have all the facts
  • Examine all the evidence
  • Think through long- and short-term consequences
  • Avoid drifting. Many times we just do something because someone asked us to or because we think it is the next step without thinking about whether it is the right action in the situation.
  • Define the problem
  • Analyze assumptions and biases
  • Avoid emotional reasoning
  • Ask others for input.
  • Consider the long term consequences
  • Don't oversimplify
  • Consider other choices
  • Keep your goals in mind
  • Ask yourself what the wisest person you know would do
  • Consider others who will be impacted by your decision

Experience the Art and Science of Delay

Instead of focusing only on how to make a decision, we should also focus on the timing of the decision. In his book Wait: The Art and Science of Delay, James Partnoy recommends that we wait until the last minute to make decisions. A former investment banker and corporate lawyer, he is a professor of finance and law and co-director of the Center for Corporate and Securities Law at the University of San Diego. He states that waiting will give you the time to deliberate on your decision and to look at all the angles.

In his interview with the Smithsonian, he described this process of managing delay with an example of getting an email message.

Just take a breath. Take more pauses. Stare off into the distance. Ask yourself the first question of this two-step process: What is the maximum amount of time I have available to respond? I free up time today that I can spend on something else, and I’ll be unconsciously working on the question asked in the email for a week.

This student may not be able to absorb the knowledge that is in his textbooks, but hopefully he will be able to analyze the information he has learned and remember them for the final exam.
This student may not be able to absorb the knowledge that is in his textbooks, but hopefully he will be able to analyze the information he has learned and remember them for the final exam. | Source

Dr. Rebecca Spencer Discusses Her Sleep Studies

Sleep and Learning

Dr. Rebecca Spencer, assistant professor in the Psychology Department in the College of Natural Sciences at UMass Amherst, studies the impact of sleep on learning and its effect on memory as people age.

Her recent findings include scientific substantiation of the old advice to "sleep on it" when trying to make a decision. She found that those students who slept between two play sessions of the Iowa Gambling Task had a better understanding of the game and superior behavioral outcomes.

In other studies, she has also found that sleep helps process emotional aspects of events, helping make those events more memorable.

Sleep and Decision Making

While many decisions can be made quickly with the conscious mind and have few long term consequences, there are some decisions that are so complex, that they really need a lot of time to analyze and absorb.

When you are making the big decisions, like whether to take a job promotion in another state or whether it is time to start a family, you may be better off thinking about it consciously, and then letting your unconscious mind work on it for a few days while you sleep on it. Studies have shown that your unconscious mind will be able to analyze the different factors of these complex questions, and you will make better decisions as a result.

© 2012 Shasta Matova

Comments: "Make Better Decisions - Sleep on it"

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    • Millionaire Tips profile imageAUTHOR

      Shasta Matova 

      8 years ago from USA

      Thanks midget38, that's true, forcing yourself to do something when you are not ready makes everything so much faster. I often find that when I force myself to write or quilt or pretty much anything, it takes so long and it is so cumbersome, but when I am ready, it flows so smoothly and things get done almost effortlessly.

      Thanks Maria, I also have this problem sometimes - too much worrying makes it hard to sleep, but maybe realizing that you can continue to work on your problem while you sleep - that sleeping does not mean you are ignoring the issue - will make it a little bit easier to get your rest.

      Thanks Jennifer. It is very tempting to get things resolved and choose the fastest way to get there, even if it isn't the best way. Sleeping on it will make sure you find a solution that considers different options and their ramifications, and choose the most appropriate one.

    • Millionaire Tips profile imageAUTHOR

      Shasta Matova 

      8 years ago from USA

      Thanks Melissa, that's right, it anyone accuses you of procrastinating, you can explain to them that you have been practicing the science of delay!

      Thanks Mary / tillsontitan. So many problems in the world would be averted if people took the time to think them through, and sleeping on decisions is one way to make sure you have the devoted proper time and resources to this process.

      Thanks Nick. It is good that there is lots of evidence to prove that sleeping on it helps avoid rash judgments.


    • jenbeach21 profile image


      8 years ago from Orlando, FL

      Great advice. I usually want things to be resolved immediately and rush to make a decision. I have learned it does pay to wait so you don't make the wrong ones!

    • Lastheart profile image

      Maria Magdalena Ruiz O'Farrill 

      8 years ago from Borikén the great land of the valiant and noble Lord

      This is totally different from what I have experienced. I can not sleep and it is because I take to my bed my worries. This article has help me so I will share it. Thanks!

    • midget38 profile image

      Michelle Liew 

      8 years ago from Singapore

      This is why it is not good to force yourself to write when you have writer's block.....doing so only produces less than ideal work, as I have found. It's good to see in the diagram proof that sleep deprivation really slows the mental process! I found this really informative and am sharing.

    • nanderson500 profile image


      8 years ago from Seattle, WA

      Definitely good advice. Sleeping it on certainly helps people avoid rash judgments.

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 

      8 years ago from New York

      Sleeping on it is about the best advice you can give. It gives you time to adjust and rationally think things out. I like the way you've laid out this hub with all your facts and ideas!

      Voted up, useful, and interesting.

    • mpropp profile image

      Melissa Propp 

      8 years ago from Minnesota

      All this time I thought waiting till the last minute to make a decision was called "Procrastinating", something I was very good at. Now I come to find out that I was really practicing the art and science of Delay!

      Great hub, very informative and wonderfully written. I enjoyed this very much!

    • Millionaire Tips profile imageAUTHOR

      Shasta Matova 

      8 years ago from USA

      Thanks Rajan, our subconscious mind is indeed very powerful, and we have to use it to its best advantage by sleeping on our big decisions.

    • rajan jolly profile image

      Rajan Singh Jolly 

      8 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA.

      Very interesting observations. you are right decisions taken in the heat of the moment sometimes are not the correct ones. So I agree it is always better to sleep over it. And the subconcious mind is very powerful in analysing the repercussions of the decision and most of the time comes out with a logical decision.

      I love the conscious decision making tips. As you say not all decisions should be taken on the spot especially the important ones that have far and long term effects. I agree.

      Voted up and useful.

    • Millionaire Tips profile imageAUTHOR

      Shasta Matova 

      8 years ago from USA

      Thank you claytonc. That's true, sometimes on really big decisions, I also have difficulty falling asleep. Maybe sleeping on the decision more than one night will help in that case.

    • claytonc2 profile image

      Chris Clayton 

      8 years ago from Paris

      Very in-depth and informative article here and I found it very useful. I always knew that "sleeping on a decision" is a good idea but my problem is that I find it difficult to sleep when I am worrying about a big decision. Kind of a catch-22... Thanks for this though it has certainly highlighted the importance of taking time to think over the big decision before jumping in.

    • Millionaire Tips profile imageAUTHOR

      Shasta Matova 

      8 years ago from USA

      Thanks Kerry! Sleeping on a decision helps a great deal in controlling your impulses. You're right, especially if you are angry, upset, or emotional, it is best to wait to make decisions when you are calmer and can see things more clearly.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Excellent article. I love that you mentioned impulse control. I wish people would write a lot of their emails and sleep on those until tomorrow :/

      Great job on this hub


    • Millionaire Tips profile imageAUTHOR

      Shasta Matova 

      8 years ago from USA

      Thank you sparkster - you are right, sleep helps us make better decisions, and depriving ourselves of sleep is dangerous. We should all work at making sure we get the right amount of sleep every night.

    • sparkster profile image

      Marc Hubs 

      8 years ago from United Kingdom

      Excellent work! Most people fail to realize how true this is. Just to sidetrack a little bit sleep deprivation can also be extremely dangerous.

    • Millionaire Tips profile imageAUTHOR

      Shasta Matova 

      8 years ago from USA

      Thanks Au fait. So many people are sleep deprived, yet sleeping helps you make better decisions and make you smarter. I am off to read your biphastic sleep article.

    • Au fait profile image

      C E Clark 

      8 years ago from North Texas

      This is a fantastic hub! I talk about how biphasic sleep can make you smarter and you mention sleep and learning which is pretty much the same thing, but it is so true that sleep is beneficial in so many other ways. Letting your brain sort things out while you sleep, which it does superbly well in most cases, giving yourself some time to see things from different perspectives, can make a big difference in your final decision.

      Truly a great hub full of wise advice! Voted up, interesting, useful, and awesome! Will share.

    • Millionaire Tips profile imageAUTHOR

      Shasta Matova 

      8 years ago from USA

      Thank you for your visit, comment and vote rajan jolly. That's so true - sleep helps you make all your decisions, even the ones you didn't sleep on, since you are alert, refreshed, and better able to analyze the pros and cons.

    • rajan jolly profile image

      Rajan Singh Jolly 

      8 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA.

      Wonderful hub. Sleep literally helps one to make better decisions as well as sleeping on a decision helps one to avoid taking a decision one might rue later on.

      Voted up, useful and interesting.

    • Millionaire Tips profile imageAUTHOR

      Shasta Matova 

      8 years ago from USA

      Thank you rfmoran, I've had those too - sometimes you think of a great thing to say or do, and realize in hindsight you shouldn't have said it. Instead of acting right away, we can wait to process the information, and our sleep will tell us that maybe we shouldn't.

      Thank you Rose, especially when we are in the middle of a sales pitch or crowd and we see everyone else doing something, it is better to think it through, and sleep on it to decide if it is the right thing for us.

      Thanks Aurelio - you have to sleep on it as many times as it takes to get to the right decision. By alternating conscious and unconscious thought, you will be able to analyze your choices thoroughly.

      Thanks Terrye! It is that kind of advice that is easier to say than to do, but the results make such a big difference that it is worth implementing.

    • Millionaire Tips profile imageAUTHOR

      Shasta Matova 

      8 years ago from USA

      Thanks Audrey, it took me a while to realize that when someone asks me to decide something, I had the right to say, "let me think about it and get back with you." We may feel pressured to answer right away, but waiting will get us a better outcome.

      Thanks CathySue. You've given great advice to your daughter. The light is more positive in the morning.

      Thanks Teaches. That's a great game plan.

    • alocsin profile image

      Aurelio Locsin 

      8 years ago from Orange County, CA

      I guess if doing it once is good, then doing it twice must be better How about sleeping on it for three times ;)

      Voting this Up and Interesting.

    • Millionaire Tips profile imageAUTHOR

      Shasta Matova 

      8 years ago from USA

      Thank you Carol, Bill, and Paula. It is tried and true advice, and now we have the scientific evidence to back it up. Now we just have to remember to actually heed the advice and sleep on it. Since we live in a "now" society, it may take some effort to make people wait for the decision or the rest of the argument, but it is a better option.

    • randomcreative profile image

      Rose Clearfield 

      8 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

      Great overview of this topic! We all need a reminder to do this once in a while. It is easy to get caught up in something and want to resolve it all right away, but a night's sleep before acting will almost always have a better result.

    • rfmoran profile image

      Russ Moran - The Write Stuff 

      8 years ago from Long Island, New York

      Many a time I have come up with an absolutely fantastic, can't miss idea and want to implement it right away. Hey, decision making is a good thing, no? Then, after sleeping on it, my subconscious goes to work. When I awake my mind says "What the hell was I thinking." Excellent hub, voted up useful and awesome. and shared with 7200 Twitter followers

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 

      8 years ago

      When making big decisions, I find it best to pray , sleep on it, and make a decision in the morning when I am fresh. Lots of advice on here and quite interesting. Our minds do work while we sleep and if you give it positive flow, it will work to sift the decisions. Great job here.

    • cathysue5924 profile image


      8 years ago from USA

      I tell my teenage daughter that after a good nights rest you'll think of things differently, in a more positive light. Wonderful article.

    • vocalcoach profile image

      Audrey Hunt 

      8 years ago from Idyllwild Ca.

      This is such a useful hub packed with information on why we make better decisions if we "sleep on it" first. I sure wish I had followed this advice years ago. I've made mistakes so many times because I have "jumped" into making an immediate decision.

      Great work here and voted up and sharing.

    • fpherj48 profile image


      8 years ago from Carson City

      Excellent hub, sharing some tried and true advice, MT......"sleep on it," is one of the best things we can do, when wrestling with a decision. I have proven this to myself. It is amazing to me how much better we can think, weigh and decide, when we've given our mind and body some rest. We all know the expression, "Everything looks brighter in the morning." That comment has more impact than meets the eye.

      Another thing that is advisable to sleep being terribly angry with someone. Rather than jumping into a verbal sparring match....a good night's sleep, quite often soothes the wild beast!!....Thanks for this great hub, MT......It makes a lot of sense!.......UP++

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      8 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Me and rash decisions do not mix! Very bad combination! LOL I have found that my best time to make a decision is right after I wake up; I am much more in tune with reality and able to make much more informed and less emotional decisions then.

      Very interesting and useful hub!

    • carol7777 profile image

      carol stanley 

      8 years ago from Arizona

      It is such good advice to sleep on decisions before plunging in..I wish I could take back some that I made. When you are hit with a crisis personal or otherwise it is so easy to jump in... I will remember your wise words the next time. Voted UP.


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