Sleeping versus Thinking Time

Jul 18, 2018The Ripple Effect Blog2 comments

Should it be that we have time to sleep and other time to think?  I think so.

A very common concern many people have is lying awake at night thinking.  Not a problem necessarily, until they add that they would like to or need to sleep but they can’t stop thinking.

I am lucky enough not to struggle with this. Some might say it is because I don’t think at all but that is not true – refer to line one above.

Having attempted root cause analysis techniques, I have become convinced that what we often identify as a problem, is in fact a symptom.  Lying awake at night thinking when you should be sleeping is probably a symptom too.  What is the root cause then?

I am not at liberty to say until you make yourself available for a consultation on my therapy couch.  I can however speculate some causes.

Thinking time is vital

To be successful and to remain successful leaders need to set aside time to think.  Very few do.

Rush every day with no quality time set aside to think and you will be forced to think when you don’t want to or when it is not the optimal time to think.

Lying awake thinking about the things you have to do tomorrow?  Could you not have thought about them before, planned for them and in so doing build confidence in your ability to plan?

Lying awake thinking about strategy?  You need to be brave enough to trust the advice given in “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” – operate in Quadrant Two, doing the things that are important before things become urgent.

Planning and thinking time are included in the important examples.

When the subconscious knows that quality time is being set aside to think, maybe it will rest when the activity slows and it is time to sleep.

Then there are those people who say they make their best decisions after “sleeping on it”.  I do believe that this strategy is a good one, as the decisions that are made after such time for reflection can be better ones.  What I doubt is that the “I need to sleep on it” applies to every-day decisions like what to wear, cook or how to respond to the latest group chat messages.  Compromising deep sleep for such decisions? Sleep on that!!

There is the note book next to the bed trick that somebody told me about many years ago.  If you think of something in the middle of the night, you tend to lie awake processing it.  It can be that you lie awake so as not to forget this thought.  Scribble something down about the thought without even switching the light on.  What you write will be what reminds you about the thought after waking in the morning.  You can go back to sleep confident that you will remember and you can let the thought go with the knowledge that it can be fleshed out in more detail when awake.

Last thought on this potential area of conflict – sleeping versus thinking time.

If you have to do your thinking at night but find that you are simply not getting enough rest, and as a result running on empty has become your norm … allow yourself some balance.  Thinking is important but so is sleeping and re-energizing.  Be brave enough to take siesta time.

Our biggest two considerations each day are whether we are being effective and efficient.  Extreme levels of activity without ticking off the effective and efficient boxes is futile.  Enjoyment without causing harm to self are important aspects of efficient.

I trust these thoughts will help any reader in the ongoing process of self-awareness.  Self-awareness and situational leadership are two of the most powerful aspects of emotional intelligence in my opinion.


Sleep well.

Think well.


By Louis Gerke

Development FacilitatorThe Ripple Effect


If this post interests you please feel free to share it:


By Louis Gerke

Facilitator |  Coach | Trainer | Speaker

If this post interests you please feel free to share it:


  1. Jody Calitz

    Love this! I believe our brains are so over stimulated with endless (and mindless) information that “switching off” almost seems impossible, especially when it comes to sleep….Maybe because we over stuff our day with mindless mental noise, which reduces our productivity so that when it comes to slowing down and being removed from metal distraction (e.g. instagram 😉 our brains want to start process the “important stuff” because that noise has subsided….

    …..I believe it’s really a problem nowadays.

    The note book exercise idea is brilliant, thank you. Going to keep one next to my bed when I have those moments…..(and be very amused by what I have written (or drawn) in the dark come the next morning 😜😜)

  2. Louis

    Thank you Jody for your comments. Feel free to post a picture of one of your night drawings!!

    Another useful thing for people is feedback on how much detail is required in your note for your brain to remember the next morning, I am of the opinion that a simple one word is enough to do the trick.

    Take good care.