Sleep is critical to so many aspects of our brains and bodies. More than just making sure that we have enough energy to get through the day, the way we sleep affects our physical health, our hormone balance, and our cognitive capacity. Certain people have a tendency to function better in the morning physically and mentally. Others consider themselves night owls. And all of this makes a difference in the way that we live our lives.
Science has shown that early birds and night owls have slightly different biological and genetic makeup. And these sleep preferences seem to play out in many different ways that the brain functions. One of the significant differences that researchers have noted is that night owls (who often sleep more hours each night) have a tendency to be more creative.
So, it is true that creative people tend to sleep more. But this may not always be a positive thing for them. Let’s take a deeper look into how creativity and sleep are intertwined.
Creativity and Sleeping Time
As scientists and researchers begin to learn more about the correlation between creativity and sleep time, more and more information is becoming available. During sleep, your brain is practicing what it has recently learned. And it becomes super active during certain phases of sleep. This means that learning which happens just prior to sleeping is likely to take better hold in your brain and be more memorable and accessible later. This is good news for verbal creatives, who may need to access a pool of research in order to develop a plot to a story.
And when it comes to creative problem-solving? Well, ‘sleeping on it’ for a longer amount of time will likely gain you a better and more creative solution than staying up late to try to come up with a resolution. Sleep sets the stage for insight to emerge. This might mean that the more you sleep, the more likely you are to be able to be creative and insightful, which is great for people who are leaders, engineers, or innovators.
Sleeping Habits of Creative People
Taking a look at the sleeping habits of creative people may help up get some insight into what’s going on in their brains and in their creative worlds. Here are some sleeping habits and aspects of the way these insightful people.
Creative People Don’t Often Have a Set Bedtime.
If a creative person is functioning well into the wee hours of the morning, they may be more likely to simply accept this as an alternative idea and follow it. This could be one of the contributing factors as to why creative people are known for going to bed later. While this isn’t a particularly healthy approach to getting sleep, it is often something that creative people do.
Creative People Have Poorer Sleep Quality.
One negative aspect of these types of sleep habits is that, although creative people may be clocked as sleeping more hours, they don’t seem to sleep as well. Their sleep is of lower quality than their early rising counterparts. Visually creative people have reported that they have more problems sleeping, their sleep is disturbed, and this makes it more difficult to function during the day. Verbally creative people report going to bed later, sleeping longer, and waking up later in the day.
People are Most Creative Just After Waking.
Many people report that their highest creative functioning happens in the immediate hours just after they’ve woken up. This is likely related to the fact that REM sleep is the time when the brain waves are active and sleep is the deepest. And the longest stages of REM sleep happen just before a person wakes in the morning. Many studies have shown a positive correlation between REM sleep and the amount of creativity measured. That means creatives may need to get straight to work as soon as they’ve woken up, in order to take advantage of their creativity.
Creative People Listen to Their Dreams.
Some creativity may be sparked by dreams. The dreams that come through REM sleep are often the most coherent and may provide inspiration for art, stories or other kinds of creativity. Benjamin Franklin, Paul McCartney, Stephen King, and Salvador Dali are all famous creative people who attribute some of their inspiration to dreams. It may be that creative people dream more because they sleep more hours, are interrupted during dreams, or simply that they pay more attention to their dreams.
Creative People Take More Naps.
Because of the strange sleep cycles they experience, and the fact that their quality of sleep is lower, it stands to reason that creative people take more naps. This may be to make up for the fact that they are exhausted during the day. It also may simply be due to the fact that they have the opportunity to sleep during the day based on their more creative schedule and lifestyle.
Creative People Struggle to Fit Into Society’s Schedule.
One difficulty for creative people comes when they have to adjust their sleep rhythms to fit in with the standard daily schedule of the modern world. Most creative people in this day and age don’t have wealthy patrons to support them. They still need to have jobs. If they can find a job that fits in with their creativity (or at the very least, fosters a late-night sleep schedule) then they may function better. But many creatives are stuck working an 8-5 day job. Essentially they are stuffing a square peg into a round hole.
It’s a well-known fact that sleep replenishes your body and your brain. The exact reason that creative people sleep for more hours and later into the day, and early risers tend to be less creative, is not completely understood. But if you’re hoping to be more creative? Then you may need to change your sleep habits and set that alarm back just a bit later. You probably can’t turn yourself into a night owl but getting a few more z’s might be a good start.