Sleep and the Willpower Instinct

How is sleep related to willpower?  I came across a video by Stanford University Health Psychologist, Dr. Kelly McGonigal, that gave me some answers.

I also wanted answers to the following questions:

1. How can I increase my success rate of waking up at 5AM?
2. Why does not willpower vary from day to day?
3. Why was my willpower stronger on the first/second week and flat on the third week?


The video details five experiments and related findings on willpower.

It is the first experiment, the Physiology of Willpower details 4 components

1. Sleep
2. Meditation
3. Physical Exercise
4. Low-Glycemic Plant based diet.


The other 4 experiments relate to “willpower hacks” which I might blog about later.

The main takeaway from the Physiology of Willpower

1. Practice all 4 components – each may seem like they take effort but will increase willpower is practiced regularly

2. The main component to willpower the amount of sleep. You need at least six hours but more ideally 8 hours. Having less than six hours will deprive certain physical areas of the brain of activities, these areas relate to activities such as goal setting and will directly affect willpower.

3. The other components such as meditation, physical exercise and diet can all contribute to better sleep and willpower.

4. One of the other experiments relates to forgiving yourself if you “fail” – I have noticed that some participants tend to beat themselves up when they fail to wake up on time, this is the wrong approach and will decreases ones willpower for the next morning.

5. Continuous sub-optimal practices such as less sleep will deplete the “willpower battery” and may explain why many participants experience the flat third week.


The video is definitely worth watching, it is about 54 minutes – so sit down and watch it in comfort.


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