We’ve all been there before. You’re bored out of your mind, maybe stuck in a class you don’t care about, feeling sleepy in a boring meeting, or watching a movie that’s just not doing it for you. And suddenly, without warning, your eyelids start to feel heavy and the next thing you know you’re nodding off. But why does this happen? Is it because you didn’t get enough sleep the night before? Or is there something more going on? Let’s take a closer look at the science of boredom to find out.
Why does boredom make you tired?
1. The Nucleus Accumbens: The Brain’s Motivation Center
One scientific explanation given by the University of Tsukuba for why boredom leads to fatigue has to do with the nucleus accumbens—a region of the brain that is associated with motivation, pleasure and reward.
The nucleus accumbens is also associated with sleep. When we lack stimulation or motivation (ie when we are bored), this area of the brain helps us to fall asleep. This is because the nucleus accumbens is responsible for helping us to identify whether or not an activity is worth expending energy on. When we are bored, the brain decides that it’s not worth expending energy and instead shuts down in order to conserve energy. This can cause our brains to induce sleep, and this is actually slow wave sleep similar to natural sleep caused by tiredness and relative energy deficiency.
This explains why we feel so tired after a long and boring lecture or when we are stuck in an uneventful situation.
2. The Stress Response: Too Much Cortisol
Another possible explanation for feeling fatigued during boredom has to do with the body’s stress response system. When faced with a boring task, our bodies release cortisol—a hormone associated with stress. Cortisol helps us to cope with stress by providing us with the energy and focus needed to complete a task. However, when we experience boredom, our cortisol levels increase without being used up because there is no real task or challenge present.
This continued exposure to high levels of cortisol can lead to fatigue as well as other health problems such as headaches and digestive issues.
3. The Limbic System: When Boredom Feels Like Pain
Finally, research has suggested that boredom is linked to pain processing in the brain. This is because the limbic system—a group of structures in the brain which regulate emotion and motivation—may perceive boredom as physical pain. This is because boredom might be a way of our brains alerting us that we need to find something more stimulating or satisfying to do. The pain associated with this experience may cause us to become tired and lethargic.
Boredom has nothing to do with sleep deprivation
When we are bored and feel sleepy, this has nothing to do with how much sleep we get, so extra sleep at night won’t help. In other words, if you’re frequently finding yourself feeling tired during the day despite getting a full eight hours of sleep at night, boredom may be to blame. Instead cognitive and emotional factors can also cause a sleep effect as our brain mechanisms governing sleep are triggered by boredom.
Boredom is more than just feeling restless
While many people may think of boredom as simply feeling restless or fidgety, there is actually more to it than that. Boredom has been found to lead people to make poor decisions, experience anxiety and depression, and even take risks they normally wouldn’t take. In other words, boredom isn’t just a mildly unpleasant feeling—it can have real consequences.
Read also: Can being at home all day make you tired?
How to stop falling asleep when bored
Overall, boredom can be a frustrating experience, not just because of its effects on our energy levels, but also because it can make us feel unproductive and unmotivated. But understanding the science behind why we feel so tired when bored can help us to cope with this feeling in a more productive way.
Dealing with boredom during tasks and activities that are compulsory (such as boring lectures and work meetings) can be hard. However, there are some well-known tactics you can adopt to help you alleviate your boredom and keep you awake.
The first strategy to dealing with boredom is proactive thinking. This involves understanding that you are bored by the activity and thinking of ways to engage more in it. For example, in a lecture you may start to feel bored and sleepy because the material is very dry or the lecturer is very dull. In this situation you could try to think of ways to make yourself more interested in the material, such as by coming up with your own anagrams or jokes to help you remember the topic better. Alternatively, you could take notes or even simply think about something that interests you more while you wait for time to pass!
The next time you find yourself feeling bored and tired, try getting up and moving around for a few minutes. Go for a walk or do some light stretching. Research has shown that even short bursts of physical activity can improve our mood and increase our energy levels. Plus, by moving around you can also help to stimulate your brain and make it more alert.
Do something else at the same time
If you can’t get up and move around, try focusing on something else—anything that will hold your attention and provide some stimulation. Reading a book or magazine, calling a friend or listening to music are all good options.
Try to find something interesting about the task or activity you are bored with. Whether it’s a new perspective on the topic or something else entirely, look for ways to spark your interest. This could be as simple as listening to music, playing a game on your phone or even just doodling in the margins of your notebook.
Ultimately, boredom can lead to fatigue and sleepiness, but there are ways to combat it. By engaging more proactively with whatever task you are bored with, getting up and moving around and finding something interesting about it, you can
Conclusion: Why does boredom make you tired?
In conclusion, there’s no single answer to why boredom makes us feel so tired. It could be due to our bodies and brains trying to alert us that we need something more stimulating or satisfying, or it could be because boredom simply induces sleep through the nucleus accumbens part of the brain signaling the body to produce sleep due to inactivity. Whatever the root cause may be, it is important to recognize when boredom starts to set in so that you can take steps to counteract it. By engaging more proactively with whatever task or activity you’re bored with, getting up and moving around and finding something interesting about it, you can help to increase your alertness, reduce fatigue and stay awake. With a little effort and strategy, boredom doesn’t have to mean feeling sleepy all day.