By Vicki Santillano, DivineCaroline
Today, all of us will make hundreds of decisions that range from the simple (“What do I want for dinner?”) to the complex (“What do I want out of life?”). Choices big and small dictate the paths our lives take, a fact that usually overwhelms me into chronic indecisiveness. I often look at people ruled by their instincts and wonder how they learned to trust their guts without fear. However, decision making isn’t as black and white as I assumed. I always believed I lacked the decision making gene, but there are surprising outside factors that affect the process.
To Sleep, Perchance to Decide
One thing’s for sure–poor sleep quality makes for poor decision making. In a 2007 study at Duke University published in the journal SLEEP, researchers studying sleep-deprived gamblers found that they were more likely to make impulsive, risky decisions because they focused more on potential rewards than consequences. Another study, this one in 2006 at the University of Amsterdam, concluded that when it came to high-importance purchases (such as a car), people made better decisions unconsciously instead of thorough deliberation. Their study championed an idea that many people espouse–that sleeping on issues is the best way to reach a decision.
Some studies have challenged this notion. In 2008, volunteers at the University of New South Wales made choices based on one of three methods–instant decision making, unconscious decision making (the “sleeping on it” method), and mulling it over. Researchers concluded that those who deliberated made the best choices. A 2009 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that people did worse on performance tests taken right after waking up, suggesting that sleep inertia negatively affects decision making. Whether sleeping on decisions is a good idea is debatable, but it’s clear that being sleepy does not a good decider make.
Related: What’s Your Sleep IQ?