For perfectionists, sleep quality is often far from perfect. However, perfectionism per se seems to be just part of the story; another important factor is a perfectionists' tendency to experience frequent symptoms of anxiety, sometimes for relatively minor reasons. These are the findings made by a team of Russian and UK sleep researchers, published in the January 2017 issue of Personality and Individual Differences journal.
The experiment involved 78 volunteers aged 18 to 27, including 39 normal sleepers and 39 diagnosed with insomnia occurring during periods ranging from 3 months to 10 years. The subjects were given a series of tests to measure the extent of their sleep problems and the levels of perfectionism, anxiety and depression. Since depression and anxiety are often associated with both perfectionism and insomnia, it was also one of the objectives of the study to examine the effect of depression on sleep quality.
A variety of factors and causes can contribute to insomnia, including perfectionism — or, more precisely, some of its manifestations, such as concerns over mistakes, doubts about actions, and perceived parental criticism. The resulting anxiety provides a link between insomnia and one's relentless pursuit of 'perfection'. The study has confirmed that a perfectionist personality with a tendency towards excessive anxiety is relatively more likely to develop a sleep disorder.
While depression, in contrast to anxiety, does not really appear to affect perfectionists' ability to sleep, further studies may be necessary to determine how exactly depression, perfectionism and insomnia are connected.
By highlighting the relationship between anxiety and insomnia, the study findings may be helpful in developing new treatments for sleep disorders. According to the authors, it is particularly important to pay attention to the symptoms of anxiety and individual manifestations of perfectionism, such as doubts about action, concerns over mistakes, and perception of parental criticism.