Here’s Why You May Procrastinate, According to Science

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New Study Links Poor sleep quality and procrastination

Do you put off important tasks regularly? Is there a project you should be working on that continues to remain untouched? Has completing assignments on time been a life struggle?

If the answer is yes, a recent study appearing in Frontiers in Psychology may help to explain why you procrastinate, particularly if you have difficulty with self-regulation.

Men’s Variety spoke to licensed psychotherapist and sleep hypnotherapist Arlene Englander about the study to gain her impressions.

“People tend to underestimate the power of sleep and how it impacts mood and brain functioning. In many ways, this research supports what many of us have known in the mental health field for a long time; poor quality sleep makes everything more difficult, including the motivation to complete tasks,” Englander said.

For this investigation, researchers surveyed 71 working adults employed in a wide range of industries, such as healthcare, construction, education, and finance.

To complete the study, participants used the diary method; a qualitative collection tool whereby a person writes down information into a daily log.

Researchers asked study participants to record their perceptions of sleep quality and tendency to procrastinate at work over a 10-day period.

To assess procrastination levels, the participants were asked to complete a brief set of questions using a rating system. An example question might be, “Today, I was an incurable time waster.”

The findings revealed a link between low quality sleep and procrastination (on the job) the following day. Moreover, the effect was influenced by a person’s level of self-control.

man trying to sleep
Sleep quality and procrastination may be linked

Translation: Folks with low self-control are particularly vulnerable to procrastination when sleep quality is poor. People with higher levels of self-regulation are not.

In case you are wondering, self-control and self-regulation are $10.00 interchangeable terms used to describe an ability to override internal messaging.

Example: You feel tired and want to relax. Your mind tells you to blow off that email your boss just sent you and deal with it tomorrow. Rather than give into your internal desire to chill, you jump on the computer and reply to your supervisor without delay.

It’s important to recognize that self-regulation isn’t easy. In truth, it’s a challenging cognitive process that wears us down over time.

This is why quality (meaning restorative) sleep is so important. In the metaphorical sense, sleep helps us to recharge our mental batteries so that during waking hours, decisions involving self-regulation are stronger.

We know from previous research that trying to catch up on missed sleep is a myth, meaning that restful sleep should be a nightly goal.

That said, just having regular high-quality sleep won’t act as a magic elixir to your procrastination woes. Experts suggest there need to be cognitive behavioral approaches in place as part of a comprehensive solution.

“All of it goes hand in hand. A good night’s sleep can influence our mood the next day. Cognitive work helps us to challenge stinking thinking that fuels avoidance,” Englander says.

According to the Sleep Research Society, adults between the ages of 18-60 should get (on average) 7-hours of meaningful sleep each night for optimal functioning.

About John Lannoye 170 Articles
John Lannoye is editor and founder of Men's Variety. Based in Chicago, he blogs on topics related to health, grooming, wellness, relationships and men's grooming. Follow him on Twitter.