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How Does Sleep Affect Creativity

February 18, 2022   By Clarisa Mcdonald

Work standards today are very fast-paced and often require creative problem-solving techniques and immediate solutions to keep up with the pace of other workers.

Implementing creative solutions and innovating fresh techniques in the workplace helps achieve goals and accomplish tasks that are at par with the quality set in place.

But, the workload can often lead to reduced hours of sleep, and the lack of sleep often affect a person’s creativity. In this article, we look at how sleep impacts creativity and how we could overcome its effects.

What Happens during Our Sleep?

Before diving deep into the effects of sleep deprivation on our creative process, we have to go back to our stages of sleep, specifically the REM sleep phase or “rapid eye movement” and the non-REM sleep or NREM sleep.

Non-REM sleep is the early phase of our sleep cycle; during this time, our body lowers heart rate and core body temperature in preparation for the deep sleep stage, wherein our body repairs itself at the cellular level.

The REM-sleep phase is when our body is immobilized, and the neurons in our brain get fired up. Most of the brain activity that we have is during the REM-sleep stage. 

But, our sleep cycle’s rapid eye movement phase only occurs late into our slumber, and that’s why creative incubation and thought processing isn’t as effective when we don’t get enough sleep.

When we get a good night’s sleep, and our body fully cycles the stages of sleep, our creative process is rewarded with better memory consolidation and retention, and it helps reboot. It refreshes our brain to foster creative thinking, and it allows our brain cells to regenerate better.

The Benefits of Sleep on Creativity

Having enough hours of sleep and establishing good sleep patterns often reward a person with a host of benefits in their creative process and their work ethic. Here are some examples:

Getting Enough Sleep Promotes Emotional Stability

The experience is undeniably familiar, you didn’t have enough sleep, and you feel cranky for most of the day. And that’s highly understandable when a person is sleep-deprived.

Having enough hours of sleep allows you to better recoup your mood the next day. You would have a clearer mind and a better grasp of your emotions even when in stressful conditions.

Getting good sleep quality isn’t only just good at managing your feelings. It’s also been known that those who sleep well feel positive effects on their mental health.

More than the positive personal effects of sleep, it also helps you interact with people better, especially with your peers. Collaborative work is easier done, and relating to others become more manageable.

You Can Think Better When You’re Well-Rested

Just like every other part of your body that gets tired when it’s used up, the brain also has its fair share of fatigue. Diving deep into your brain to get unique and creative ideas can be an arduous process, and that’s why your mind also needs to get a lot of rest.

Having a good night’s sleep fosters creative thoughts since the brain is refreshed and renewed, ready to take on a new day.

As mentioned earlier, memory consolidation happens during our sleep, and the better sleep we get, the easier it is for us to remember our thoughts during our wakeful hours.

Better Solutions Are Unlocked

We have discussed how brain activity is enhanced during our REM sleep, and this is further enhanced as our brain’s “waste disposal” clears out thoughts and brain processes that are not vital to learning.

During the REM sleep stage, we slowly improve our ability to learn and memorize our problem-solving skills, concentration, and overall mood. All of these plays significant roles to build up our creative thinking.

Sleep Tips for Fostering Creativity

Set Sleep Schedules

If there’s one tip to religiously follow, set sleep schedules and strictly observe the defined sleep and wakeup times. Consistently sleep and waking up at the same time establishes good sleep patterns leading to better sleep quality.

It might not be easy to fall asleep and follow the sleep schedules right away, but with practice comes perfection, and forming the habit of sleeping on time will naturally occur.

Unplug before Bed

One of the reasons why it’s so difficult for some people to sleep at night is the constant exposure to screens of digital devices. This is because of the blue light emitted by these devices and how it inhibits our melatonin production.

While the effects of blue light on our sleep are already understood, we often don’t realize that in the process of content consumption, we also use up our brain, which gives the brain more information to process.

There’s nothing wrong when trying to learn something new, but the tradeoff of poor sleep becomes counterintuitive to the intended goal.


Regular physical activities and exercises do not only benefit your health and body – but it also has positive effects on your creative thoughts.

Giving your brain a break from constant thinking is just one of the benefits of exercising. It allows your mind to rest and have fresher thoughts right after.

Likewise, blood circulation after physical exercises also helps circulate and bring more oxygen to the brain, promoting more creative thoughts and ideas.

Avoid Alcohol and Caffeine before Bedtime

We all know how caffeine can keep us awake, and that isn’t the most ideal when we’re trying to get enough hours of sleep.

But what about alcohol? You might think that it’s easier to fall asleep when you’re a little tipsy, which can be partly true. Although it’s easy to fall asleep when you’ve had a bit to drink, the sleep quality is not the same.

When you’re under the influence of alcohol, your sleep cycles may go off, and you would not be able to get the best benefits of sleep and even wake up the next day with a hangover.

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