In the fourth instalment of RAPTOR 101, we explore the effect of time of day and sleep deprivation on decision making processes and cognitive functioning, in an attempt to provide the answer the following questions:
“Do some people make better decisions in the morning, and others in the evening?”
“What is the best time of day to make decisions in FPL?“
“What is the effect of sleep and sleep deprivation on decision making?”
Importantly, the research I will cover in this article, and the advice I will give at the end of article, will apply to all aspects of decision making, not just FPL.
Therefore, you can consider this article when making decisions in every area of your life, whether it be professional, or personal. Let us begin this exciting topic!
Decision Making in the Morning vs. the Evening
There are some fantastic studies which directly explore the best time of day to make decisions, and therefore I will jump straight into a two of my favourites.
Study 1: Facer-Childs and Brandstaetter (2015)
This first study explored the effect of time of day on sport performance. However, elite sport performance is largely governed by successful and effective decision making (lots of them!), and therefore these results are presumed to be applicable to explicit decision making such as those in FPL.
The authors main finding was that peak performance differed according to which ‘chronotype’ the person belongs to. A chronotype is the propensity for an individual to sleep at a particular point in their 24-hour cycle – simply put, are they a morning person or an evening person?
Here are the following peak times for performance for each chronotype:
- Early risers (morning people): peak at 12:00pm
- Intermediate (neither one nor the other): peak just before 16:00pm
- Late types (evening people): peak just after 20:00pm
By timing our decisions with our own circadian rhythm (i.e. our sleep cycle and chronotype), we can improve our decision making by up to 26% (Facer-Childs & Brandstaetter, 2015). That is an incredible increase in performance!
Therefore, consider this in relation to yourself, are you a morning person, an evening person, or a bit of both?
If you are a morning person, perhaps maybe make your important FPL decisions just before lunch… if you are an evening person, perhaps make your important decisions after dinner!
However, this is only one study in a rich area of research, so I would be doing you a disservice if I didn’t explore research which delivers alternative findings.
Study 2: Leone, Slezak, Golombek and Sigman (2017)
In this study by Leone et al. (2017), the effect of time of day was explored specifically in relation to decision making, represented by online chess.
Participants had to have played at least 2000 online games. Over 100 participants took part in the experiment, and completed a Morning-Eveningness Questionnaire (MEQ; e.g., Östberg, 1976) to assess their chronotype.
Here is what the authors found:
“We found that players changed their decision-making policy
throughout the day: players decide faster and less accurately as
the day progresses, reaching a plateau early in the afternoon. This
effect was observed for all players regardless of their chronotype,
indicating that changes in Decision time are mainly determined
by the time of the day.” (Leone et al., 2017, p. 53).
The authors continue to say that:
“Our results show that players play more accurately and slower
in the morning, which could be interpreted as a strategy based on
safety (prevention focus), and they play faster and less accurately
in the evening, which could be a more risky way of playing (promotion focus).” (Leone et al., 2017, p. 53).
Therefore, these authors suggest that it does not matter whether you are a morning person or an evening person, it is the time of day which is important.
They do not suggest that one is better than the other, they simply suggest that morning decisions tend to be safer and preventative, whereas evening decisions tend to be riskier and attacking in nature.
They suggest that this could be the result of ‘sleep pressure’. This theory suggests that throughout our wake cycle the drive and desire to sleep slowly accumulates, resulting in the gradual degradation of our cognitive functioning (Schmidt, Collette, Cajochen, & Peigneux, 2007).
In other words, by the time we reach the final few hours before sleep, our cognitive functioning is inferior to what it was earlier in the day!
2. The Effect of Sleep and Sleep Deprivation on Decision Making
As well as the effect of time of day on decision making, we must consider the influence of sleep, and perhaps more importantly, sleep deprivation (i.e. lack of sleep), on cognitive decision making.
The majority of research in this field will suggest that sleep deprivation is highly detrimental when making important decisions.
Indeed, Harrison and Horne (2000) demonstrate that sleep deprivation impairs decision making involving the unexpected, innovation, revising plans. competing distraction, and effective communication.
Building on this, there is a large cohort of literature which supports the role of sleep in aiding our ability to ‘flexibly’ make and adapt decisions (Harrison & Horne, 1999; Whitney et al., 2015). When deprived of sleep, we are ineffective at updating our plans and considering new information.
FPL managers, this demonstrates how important sleep is for making decisions in FPL.
Being able to plan and adapt to the unexpected, be innovative in our choices, and flexibly revise our plans according to incoming news is critical to successful and effective decision making in FPL – and sleep is critical to the effective execution of this!
Conclusions and Final Advice
As with most research, there are many different theories and findings regarding the best time of day to make decisions.
However, based on my research and experience, here are some important take home messages that you can apply to decision making in FPL:
- GET LOTS OF SLEEP: The importance of sleep cannot be overstated. Sleep is positively correlated to happiness, mental health, lower risk of physical diseases (e.g. cancer), improved recovery rate, attractiveness, and longevity of life (Walker, 2018). At the very least, good quality sleep will improve our ability to update and revise plans (cognitive flexibility) which is critical to effective decision making.
- AVOID MAKING DECISIONS WHEN YOU ARE SLEEP DEPRIVED: If you cannot increase the quality/quantity of sleep, and suffer from sleep deprivation, my advice would be to make decisions when you are/feel least sleep deprived. If this is the morning, make your key decisions here. If you feel fatigued and tired in the mornings, make your decisions later in the day.
- MAKE DECISIONS (BUT NOT DO NOT CONFIRM THEM) AT THE RELEVANT TIME OF DAY FOR YOUR DESIRED OUTCOME: Whilst the research on the best time of day to make decisions is conflicting, most research in gaming and gambling suggests that riskier decisions are made at night, and safer, preventative decisions are made in the morning. As such, you may be able to tailor the times you make decisions based on the outcome you desire. If you need a rank rise and an attacking move, perhaps consider your options in the evening. If you need to prevent taking hits and want to protect your rank, consider your options in the morning/afternoon.
- CONFIRM YOUR DECISIONS IN THE MORNING: Whilst you can consider and plan your decisions in the evening to increase the risky/attacking nature of your decisions, the impact of sleep pressure and sleep deprivation would prevent me from advising you to confirm these decisions in the evening. It may be that something that appears to be a clever differential decision in the evening, will be perceived as a massive mistake when you have slept and are therefore able to update and revise your plan! As such, feel free to do research and make decisions in the evening, but wait until the morning/afternoon to confirm these decisions!
As a final parting piece of advice (and a small caveat), take this research with a pinch of salt, and do what is best for you! Whilst it may that many people make poor/risky decisions in the evening, it may be that this is the time you function most effectively, and therefore, you should continue to make decisions at this time!
FPL is an individualistic and personalised game, and we must do what we can to enjoy the process. If this means making decisions at times when your are less cognitively effective, then so be it! If you are enjoying the game, then I believe you are playing it the right way!
This was written and produced by @FPL__Raptor – click the link to follow him on Twitter, to get more Psychological musings in relation to FPL, to keep up to date with his own progress, or to just be friendly and say hello.
Facer-Childs, E., & Brandstaetter, R. (2015). The impact of circadian phenotype and time since awakening on diurnal performance in athletes. Current Biology, 25(4), 518-522.
Harrison, Y., & Horne, J. A. (1999). One night of sleep loss impairs thinking and flexible decision making. Organisational Behavior and Human Processes, 78(2), 128-145.
Harrison, Y., & Horne, J. A. (2000). The impact of sleep deprivation on decision making: a review. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, 6(3), 236-249.
Leone, M. J., Slezak, D. F., Golombek, D., Sigman, M. (2017). Time to decide: diurnal variations on the speed and quality of human decisions. Cognition, 158, 44-55.
Östberg, O. (1976). A self-assessment questionnaire to determine morningness-eveningness in human circadian rhythms. International Journal of Chronobiology, 4, 97-100.
Schmidt, C., Collette, F., Cajochen, C., & Peigneux, P. (2007). A time to think: circadian rhythms in human cognition. Cognitive Neuropsychology, 24(7), 755-789.
Walker, M. (2018). Why we sleep: The new science of sleep and dreams. Penguin Books: London.
Whitney, P., Hinson, J. M., Jackson, M. L., & Van Dongen, H. P. A. (2015). Feedback blunting: total sleep deprivation impairs decision making that requires updating based on feedback. Sleep, 38(5), 745-754.