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Sleep and Creative People – Are You Getting Enough?


“Sleep and dreaming inspires creative insight.”

Getting enough quality sleep may be challenging for most of us, and researchers note sleep helps the brain be more creative.

But there are also studies showing that creative people may regularly be sleep-deprived.

Creativity researcher Scott Barry Kaufman notes “While not necessarily mad, creative minds are often chaotic, untethered and unhinged.

“These thought processes enable a creative person to bring together lots of seemingly disparate streams of information in a unique way not immediately obvious to those grounded in ‘reality.’ ”

He adds, “Studies have found that sleep and dreaming inspires creative insight.”

From his post Must One Risk Madness to Achieve Genius?

One of his books: Wired to Create: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Creative Mind by Scott Barry Kaufman and Carolyn Gregoire.


Lack of sleep can impair creative thinking

KH Kim, a professor of educational psychology at the College of William & Mary, comments:

“Innovators learn to manage or channel their seemingly limitless energy in order to fulfill their passion or goal.

“Sometimes they sleep very little. But a lack of sleep impairs short-term memory that’s critical for creativity.”

From her book The Creativity Challenge: How We Can Recapture American Innovation.


Video: Sleep and Creativity: Why You Should Sleep More
by then-UC Berkeley student Leon Zhang – follow link to see his video description with some references on the topic.

Different sleep patterns

In her article Visual and Verbal Creatives May Sleep Differently, Traci Pedersen notes, “Visually creative people tend to have poorer quality of sleep overall, while verbally creative people tend to sleep longer and later, according to new research at the University of Haifa in Israel.

“The study, which compared the sleeping patterns of social science and art students, strengthens the hypothesis that visual creativity and verbal creativity involve different psychobiological mechanisms.”

She quotes study co-author Neta Ram-Vlasov, a doctoral student at the Graduate School of Creative Art Therapies at the University:

“Visually creative people reported disturbed sleep leading to difficulties in daytime functioning.

“In the case of verbally creative people, we found that they sleep more hours and go to sleep and get up later. In other words, the two types of creativity were associated with different sleep patterns.”

Unique challenges for creative people

Therapist and trainer Sharon M. Barnes, MSSW, LCSW, works with creative, sensitive, intense, intelligent people with “social & emotional needs of GT, HSP, 2E & SPD.”

She addresses this topic of sleep for creative people of different ages in a post (the source of the sleeping cat photo), noting:

“Sleep can be elusive for anyone, whether you’re 3, 13, 33 or 63.

“We all have nights where we toss and turn, or get to sleep but we can’t stay asleep.

“When you’re a CASIGY™ (Creative, Acutely Aware, Super-Sensitive, Intense, and/or Gifted You), you may face challenges with sleep that have a slightly different twist than others face.

“And if you have ADHD, Anxiety, Depression or other ‘labels’, sleep can be an even greater challenge.

“A creative person may have creative ideas show up as soon as their head hits the pillow.

“Sometimes carving out time earlier in the day for your creative pursuit, whether that’s writing, knitting, painting, wood carving, composing or playing music, building legos, playing Barbies, drawing, or something else, can help to fend off sneak attacks of the Muse.

“But not always. Sometimes that just fuels the Muse, and she brings her sisters, and together they haunt you all the more.”

Being highly sensitive

“When you’re acutely aware, you can also be kept awake by wrinkled sheets or blankets, sounds no one else hears, smells no one else smells, and the like.

Super-sensitivity ─ having a more perceptive and a more reactive central nervous system ─ can crank up the Flight-or-Fight Response in your body over seemingly nothing.

“And when you’ve had a stressful day or a day in which your Central Nervous System has been highly stimulated, it can take a lot to calm it down and keep it calm.

“Many HSPs tell me that one way they detect just how over-stimulated they have been during their day, is how revved their Central Nervous system is at the end of the day, making it harder than ever to get to sleep and stay asleep, no matter what they do.”

She details Seven Tips that have “helped my CASIGY clients the most, kids and grown-ups, to improve their sleep” – including:

Einstein on bike1. Find you or your child’s optimal amount of sleep
Experiment and keep track to discover what that is and then plan that into your schedule, making it top priority. We live in a sleep deprived world, so doing this is a bit counter-culture. …

2. Carve out Uptime: First, get 30 minutes or more of moderate to vigorous physical exercise as early in the day, as many days a week as possible. …

[I added this photo of Einstein from my post Fun And Play Are Good.]

From her much longer post “Seven Tips to Help the Creative, Sensitive or Gifted Sleep Peacefully” Jan. 13, 2017 – see the blog tab at the top on her site, and look under multiple categories including Creative Coping for the post.

This link goes to a page on her site about her Social-Emotional ACES Home Video Program.


Sleep and Creative People – Are You Getting Enough?

Douglas Eby

Douglas EbyDouglas Eby, MA/Psychology, is a writer and researcher on psychology and personal development related to creativity; creator of the , and author of books including [link to book site with excerpts.]
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Some excerpts from The Creative Mind are included in his newsletter .
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APA Reference
Eby, D. (2017). Sleep and Creative People – Are You Getting Enough?. Psych Central. Retrieved on June 25, 2019, from


Last updated: 8 Feb 2017
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