I saw an article like this one maybe a year ago and was intrigued by the concept that not thinking about a dilemma can lead to a better decision than obsessing over it. In fact, since I read that, I’ve let this process help me out with lots of little, unimportant decisions. It seems true: not thinking about a decision I have to make seems to work better than debating it constantly, whether the decision is big or little.


Why ‘Sleeping on It’ Helps

By John M. Grohol, PSYD, PsychCentral.com

posted: 26 October 2009 06:59 pm ET

We’re often told, “You should sleep on it” before you make an important decision. Why is that? How does “sleeping on it” help your decision-making process?

Conventional wisdom suggests that by “sleeping on it,” we clear our minds and relieve ourselves of the immediacy (and accompanying stress) of making a decision. Sleep also helps organize our memories, process the information of the day, and solve problems. Such wisdom also suggests that conscious deliberation helps decision making in general. But new research (Dijksterhuis et al., 2009) suggests something else might also be at work — our unconscious.

Previous research suggests that sometimes the more consciously we think about a decision, the worse the decision made. Sometimes what’s needed is a period of unconscious thought — equivalent to “sleeping on it” according to the researchers — in order to make better decisions.

Read the rest of the article…