She focused on our need for sleep – and our frequent avoidance of it - in a recent blog post for Psychology Today. She also described the “Science of Willpower” course she teaches at Stanford.
“I make a strong case for sleep as the most powerful resource for greater self-control and better performance at whatever matters most to you,” she wrote.
The problem is that too often we fail to tap into this power source. Without enough sleep we’re tired, stressed and unable to fulfill our potential.
We walk about in a state of voluntary – but unintentional – sleep deprivation. It’s called behaviorally induced insufficient sleep syndrome.
According to McGonigal, for many of us it’s simply a matter of willpower. We have to make it a priority to maintain our natural sleep cycle.
“Getting enough sleep, on a regular cycle, may make us a better version of ourselves,” she wrote. “I'd rather feel good and perform well than get to be a crankier, impulsive, sick version of myself for a few extra hours a day.”
But even willpower may be powerless when you have a sleep disorder. Willpower won’t prevent you from acting out violent dreams while asleep. It won’t open your airway to prevent breathing pauses during sleep.
And willpower can be part of the problem when you have insomnia. The harder you try to fall asleep, the more elusive sleep becomes.
So where does willpower fit into your sleep? Maybe you need to stop cutting back on sleep and start going to bed earlier.
Or maybe you need to stop ignoring your sleep problem and seek medical help. You can contact an AASM-accredited sleep disorders center near you.