Sleep Health and Self-Determination

Human Motivation Problem

Prevalence and Causes

The problem that affects human motivation and performance chosen for this assessment is poor sleep. Poor sleep has become a ubiquitous issue in modern high-paced society, affecting all groups of people worldwide. It may be caused by diverse physiological and social factors, including illnesses, stress, and work-life disbalance (Campbell et al., 2017). In addition, work demands, administrative injustice, disbalance between effort and reward, and bullying are all predictors of poorer sleep (Niemiec et al., 2022). Overall, compromised sleep quality may result from different sources, sometimes more than one.


Poor or disturbed sleep adversely affects several areas of human health and well-being. Poor sleep adversely affects cognitive functions and is significantly associated with fatigue, general strain, and depressive and anxiety disorders (Niemiec et al., 2022). Moreover, people who suffer from sleep disturbances report lower quality of life, determined by work and daily function errors, emotional burden, physical and mental health, and lacking socialization (Niemiec et al., 2022). The rate of accidents and wrongful decisions increases in workplaces where employees are not receiving sufficient sleep (Niemiec et al., 2022). The potential monetary losses are also considerable: an annual average cost of lost job productivity was approximately 11 days or USD 2,300 per employee (Niemiec et al., 2022). Therefore, poor sleep impairs people’s ability to navigate daily life by causing diminished performance and affecting psychological, physical, and economic spheres of life.

Self-Determination Theory

The self-determination theory (SDT) is a framework that provides a helpful motivational perspective on the issues. Center for Self-Determination Theory (CSDT) (n.d.-b) states that SDT identifies three universal and inherent psychological factors necessary for the well-being and optimal functioning. First, there is the need for autonomy, which refers to the experience of feeling willed and self-approved in one’s activities (CSDT, n.d.-b). Second, competence is needed, which implies a sense of ability and effectiveness in achieving desired results (CSDT, n.d.-b). Lastly, there is a need for relatedness, which reflects one’s propensity for solid interpersonal relationships (CSDT, n.d.-b). When one or more such needs are unmet, frustration may arise (CSDT, n.d.-b). This sense of frustration can be examined in the context of sleep.

Hence, in the case of disturbed sleep impairing one’s cognitive abilities, these autonomy, competence, and relatedness frustrations are likely to appear. According to Niemiec et al. (2022), workers are more likely to report sleep disturbances and symptoms of depression and anxiety when they experience the frustration of basic psychological needs in the workplace. Moreover, changes in basic psychological needs’ frustration affected sleep quality, which, in turn, negatively affected anxiety symptoms (Niemiec et al., 2022). Thus, SDT can provide a more in-depth understanding of sleep disturbance.

Research Findings Application

Research on the topic of addressing poor sleep presents a variety of conclusions. Campbell et al. (2017) recite a recent finding that increases in psychological need frustration are related to increases in daytime dysfunction (i.e., higher fatigue and lower vitality) via rises in stress. Interestingly, Campbell et al. (2017) find that each of the three needs has made its unique contribution to higher stress and poorer sleep. When people feel pressured, prevented from daily activities, and isolated from significant others, they are likely to experience stress symptoms like tension and overexcitability, reducing energy levels and contributing to fatigue (Campbell et al., 2017). In addition, Campbell et al. (2017) find the need frustration and stress to be associated with more negative attitudes about needing to sleep by bedtime, leading to lower subjective sleep quality. Therefore, higher daily stress levels are associated with poorer sleep quality, which is better understood when the role of cognitive arousal is considered.

Motivational Theory

SDT-based interventions have received significant empirical support compared to other theoretical perspectives. Given the SDT’s emphasis on creating supportive conditions, therapeutic interventions to reduce sleep disturbances should address all psychological ‘deficits’ (Ryan & Deci, 2020). Moreover, such interventions are endorsed by Campbell et al. (2017), who recommend beginning by helping people recognize the sources of needs’ frustration in their lives and regulate their emotional responses. One approach is helping people develop a more mindful attitude, thereby helping them learn to accept their experiences in the present moment openly and without judgment (Campbell et al., 2017). Additionally, CSDT (n.d.-a) lists the provision of rewards, feedback, supervision, and productive competition as factors in intrinsic motivation, which increase pleasure, interest, and enjoyment just as much as external rewards. Together, these tactics can aid in addressing the motivational problem in question by satisfying autonomy, competence, and, potentially, connectedness (CSDT, n.d.-a). Hence, given that stress is identified as one of the most significant causes of poor sleep quality, the support of a mindful attitude and intrinsically motivating people may be the optimal solution.

Recommended Solution Evaluation

Research evidence points to the possibility of implementing the proposed solution. Firstly, SDT has many tools to understand when and why factors like rewards, feedback, assessment, recognition, competition, and social comparison support or undermine satisfaction of basic needs (Ryan & Deci, 2020). Within the SDT framework, intrinsic and extrinsic motivations were found effective, depending on the application (Ryan & Deci, 2020). Moreover, mindfulness is associated with higher levels of need satisfaction, perhaps because it promotes awareness and sensitivity to signals for need satisfaction (Campbell et al., 2017). In addition, previous research has shown that mindfulness is associated with less fatigue and higher quality of sleep (Campbell et al., 2017). Further, Niemiec et al. (2022) state that SDT-informed support for the satisfaction of the three needs is associated with higher levels of psychological wellness and physical health. In conclusion, research supports that propagating a mindful mindset and intrinsically motivating people suffering from poor sleep can alleviate the issue.


Campbell, R., Tobback, E., Delesie, L., Vogelaers, D., Mariman, A., & Vansteenkiste, M. (2017). Basic psychological need experiences, fatigue, and sleep in individuals with unexplained chronic fatigue. Stress and Health: Journal of the International Society for the Investigation of Stress, 33(5), 645–655.

Center for Self-Determination Theory. (n.d.-a). Intrinsic motivation. Web.

Center for Self-Determination Theory. (n.d.-b). Self-determination theory.

Niemiec, C. P., Olafsen, A. H., Halvari, H., & Williams, G. C. (2022). Losing sleep over work: A self-determination theory view on need frustration, sleep disturbance, and mental ill health. Stress and Health: Journal of the International Society for the Investigation of Stress.

Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2020). Intrinsic and extrinsic motivation from a self-determination theory perspective: Definitions, theory, practices, and future directions. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 61, 101860.

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PsychologyWriting. "Sleep Health and Self-Determination." April 2, 2023.