I seem to do better creative work when I'm slightly underslept. This isn't just a feeling - I mark down and track what I get done each done, and how I spend my time. I get more done on the 4-5 hours of sleeping nights than longer nights of full sleep.
I've wondered why. I'm still not sure, but I've got two theories -
1. We already know from science that being moderately sleep deprived has some similar effects on you as being moderately drunk. Thus, could some relaxing of inhibitions or lack of self-judging account for higher creativity?
2. When I'm not sleeping enough, it's usually because I'm extraordinarily busy at the time. So it might be just good old fashioned momentum - if you want to get something done, give it to a busy person.
Have you had any experiences with paying attention to how much you're sleeping, and your creative output? How have you done when underslept? Any theories as to why?
I think this has merit. The body operates more efficiently on 15% fewer calories than ideal (low-cal diets are making a come-back for people who want to live longer. You might want to look into that)
So it strikes me that the brain might operate more efficiently on less sleep. Not a whole bunch less. When I get below six hours my brain is like, awww fuck it. But 7 is pretty much ideal although my endurance isn't as good.
But damn I love to sleep. I don't think I'll be cutting back anytime soon.
What about something to the effect of that you are already pretty good at being creative so it is actually too easy. Normally make it harder on yourself with overanalysis and such. Then, when you make it harder just by being more tired, you are able to get in the flow state more easily. I think there is something to be said about opening up new possibilities by just charging through and then seeing where you are. Interesting and thought-provoking article and comments!
Haven't commented for a while.. this post was a bit related to what I have observed. When I usually go shopping after a night shift, I get better responses from the same sales staff compared to when I go before the shift. May be I look more intense and my focus is more?
'2. When I’m not sleeping enough, it’s usually because I’m extraordinarily busy at the time. So it might be just good old fashioned momentum...'
This makes it sound like selection bias is also plausible -- those times with little sleep might be when you are, for other reasons, getting a lot done.
This is very interesting. All the research I've read seems to imply that under-sleeping is unconditionally a bad thing, but in reality getting 7-8 hours of sleep is quite difficult if you're working a full-time job AND trying to get your own side-project(s) off the ground. All anecdotal accounts from people I admire seem to imply that under-sleeping, especially in your younger years, is simply a fact of life for anyone wanting to achieve remarkable things.
Steve Pavlina made experiments with sleep and described his result very well. Have a look, it is worth reading.
I've noticed and wondered about the same effect for a long time. The one clear effect going on is that when I'm doing my best and most creative work, I stay excited about continuing to work on it and stopping to sleep is the last thing I want to do, and I end up staying up to all hours working on it. But I think there's an effect going the other way too - a bit of excited insomnia gets me away from normal day-to-day states of mind and feeds back into the capability for looking at things in different ways and making creative leaps.
Wow, from the headline, I was actually expecting the opposite result. Pretty incredible.
Intuition tells me it's something to do with #2. An effect, not a cause. Moreover, now that you know this correlation, you may also experience this effect through self-fulfilling prophecy. Both by knowing you'll be more creative on those days, leading to higher creativity, and focusing on less creative things on the other days.
The initial result is still surprising to me though. May an experiment to confirm this. One with others involved since we are all are now biased with the knowledge of this correlation. Very interesting.
I am much more creative and productive when I don't get enough sleep, and I know exactly why. I usually am very good at ideas, planning and execution, but I ALWAYS second guess and triple guess everything I do. At almost every step I ask and answer the same questions over and over again in my head : "is this right?", "is there a way to do it faster/better?", "shouldn't I do this/that first?", etc.
The problem is that I already answered all of them at the planning stage, yet I have to do it over and over again when the plan is already in motion. Sometimes (mostly when I'm doing something completely new, but then I'm extra careful anyway) that's good, since it allows me to find better ways to do stuff or rethink whether a step needs to be done or not, but most of the time it just detracts me from work.
When I don't get enough sleep (and in my case, that's less than 6 hours a night, usually I sleep 8-9 hours), the questions just stop - I make a plan and start executing it - it's like my brain is too tired to double/triple/quadruple check everything and just says "Whatever, do what you want" :-). So most of the time, I create stuff better and faster than usual - for example, I remember making a quick video for a client while super tired, and he was like "Wow, this looks great!" - I would've never rendered it if I wasn't sleepy, I thought it sucked :-).
But of course, I also make some stupid mistakes some times and miss some details, but usually they don't matter in the end...
Sadly, that doesn't work if I'm too tired, so I'm looking into getting some Modafinil and/or Aniracetam to experiment with (if it's like coffee but the effect is limited to the brain, it'd be perfect)...
I've noticed this as well. My belief is that when my brain is tired, I'm less likely to get distracted, since my brain just doesn't have the energy to decide it's suddenly interested in some off-topic thing. I feel like my raw creativity is worse when I'm tired, but my focus is better, for a net benefit.
"Abandon All Hope, Ye Who Enter Here." -- Inscription on the Gates of Hell, Dante Alighieri's "Inferno"
The worthy detour? I think I've got a formula for "High Creative Mode"... just it's not particularly consistently effective yet, and it's playing a pretty high stakes game. On Day Seventeen, I made my first crack at applying it, and had an incredible day. I wrote a 5000-word piece, that after editing and getting the ending right, I think could be amazingly fantastic. Just writing it was a joy.
Following from that, I was walking on air for the rest of the day.
In Day Eighteen, I attempted the same thing, and fell short. This was maddening, and the whole day was aggravating. I think I've got a rough formula for High Creative Mode, but it doesn't produce 100% results. And when it fails, it's pretty ugly, at least so far.
I kept detailed notes on both days, much more fleshed out than usual. There's more stream-of-consciousness. They're... honestly, a little weird. You can evaluate for yourself:
I think that some might be surprised to hear how much I sleep and how important it is to me. I average right around eight hours per day (tracked for a few months), and prioritize sleep very strongly, even over most work.
Once ten pm comes around, I have four options for things I'm allowed to do: I can play violin, read a book, work, or sleep. Computer is off at midnight every day, at which point I usually read for an hour or two, and then go to sleep.
The other night I was tired at ten, but I was really excited about my work so I tried to push through and keep at it. I was stuck trying to fix something, but I managed to try five or ten solutions out before getting in bed. At the time, it felt like a good choice.
I woke up the next morning, took one look at the code, and spotted the solution instantly. Within five minutes it was fixed. Once is a fluke, but I've noticed this pattern over and over again with work when I'm tired-- it feels like I'm working, but often I'm just spinning my wheels.