Chapter Four
Sleep and Behaviour

This site is being upgraded and added to continuously. Feel free to visit again and browse. I have ADHD so the order of material may be confused. If you have ADHD, you know that!



I have derived some of the material for this Chapter from the book ‘The Sleep Diet” by Dr Carmel Harrington. If you have weight problems, get the book. However, what is written here is my understanding as I relate it to procrastination. Although she is writing about weight control, some of the information is relevant to the way we behave – and procrastinate!

During sleep your body produces hormones. The amount depends on how long you sleep for.

Your immune system functions in beneficial ways during sleep, so if you don’t get enough sleep, you are susceptible to illness.

For most people,

Mood and behaviour, feelings, depend on regular sleep!

A lack of sleep effects behaviour, mood, and mental activity- your ability to think.

If you have been awake for 20 hours your general mental ability may be the equivalent of .05 alcohol: for 24 hours it may be 0.1.

For 18 hours (i.e. you had six hours sleep) you brain is disturbed enough for you to be unable to be aware that you are functioning below your best.

So you realise that for some people, this causes procrastination. They are not functioning well enough to make decisions.

About three people in a hundred have ‘short sleep genes’ and can function with six hours sleep. If you have slept four to six hours all you adult life and a parent or grandparent was the same, and it worked well, you may have it. On the other hand, if you are reading this because you procrastinate or need motivation, I wouldn’t bet on it.


Nearly everyone needs between seven and eight and a half hours sleep regularly. The best to work on is seven and three quarters. That’s right: 7 hours 45 minutes to have a hormone balance that will allow you to function well!     Every night!

That means you decide what time you need to get up, subtract eight hours, and you have the time that you need to be getting into bed. If that means a life-style change, make a life-style change!

I know! The job(s), the children, the social life, the TV, the …..   the question is, Your continued healthy long life, or HEALTHY LIFE?   Make changes!


Start a sleep diary. For two weeks (you have to get the weekends in) record what time you went to bed, about what time you went to sleep, what time you woke, what time you got up (if there is a delay). Having to sleep longer on weekends to make up is a bad sign. Your inner system doesn’t know “weekends”, it runs day to day. Ignore times you woke during the night unless you were awake for a longish period, in which case subtract this from your time asleep.


Because light tells your brain to stay awake, reduce light sources for at least an hour before you go to bed = computers, TV, home theatres, even some types of house lights. Reduce anything stimulating or disturbing = the News, engrossing novels, work.

If you have things to think about, write them down, or draw, or use symbols (that the kids couldn’t understand!) and put that away. You don’t think about, worry about, or anything about that until next morning.

Problems: If your sleep remains disturbed, do your best to sort this out with someone who can help. Some disturbances such as sleep apnoea need medical attention.

Marina’s Story

Marina’s procrastination was quite straightforward. She put off exercise.

An article in the news which said that lack of exercise killed as many people as smoking frightened her. This was not just for herself but for her teenage daughters, neither of which moved as much as she thought they should.

But starting herself was something that she just procrastinated, again and again. She made a decision each night that tomorrow was the day, but there was too much to do in the morning and the same thing at night. There never seemed to be enough time.

Marina kept finding excuses not to exercise, from not enough time to the risk of injury, even that if she was very fit and slim she might attract undesirable attention from men. She knew they were just fantasies to justify not exercising.

She had to move exercise up her level of priorities. Her health and that of her daughters had to come ahead of what?  Cutting down on sleep was not a good idea. There was housework and meals to prepare at night because she worked during the day in an office. And after that, well, a relax in front of the TV.

She decided that some TV had to go, she would go to bed earlier, and have 30 minutes brisk walking in the morning.

That was what went into the Solution.

Finding resources, good experiences and strong successes in her life took some time. She had grown up in a family where personal enjoyment was frowned on and pride at achievement sinful. But she found enough to use to which she added the knowledge that this really had to happen, the time had come.

It took several weeks before she realised that the walking was enjoyable and she felt much better. Her daughters haven’t joined her yet, but she isn’t letting go of her achievement.

Go to Chapter Five

 © David Townsend 2014