I’m a nationally published sleep expert, journalist, and the mom of three young kids. I’ve been helping tired families sleep since 2007 (more about me here). Subscribe to The Well Rested Family for fresh news and tips on keeping your bunch happy and healthy. Thanks for stopping by!


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How To Be More Creative Without Really Trying

People who say they'll sleep when they're dead are sacrificing their ability to have good thoughts now.

--Jessica D. Payne, University of Notre Dame

Feeling a little dim? Trying hitting the sack.When we’re overwhelmed by life, sleep tends to be the first thing we sacrifice. Big work projects, family transitions, and other stressful life situations leave us too busy and too stressed to get a good night’s sleep. As it turns out, sleep is exactly what we need during those times—research from University of Notre Dame shows that sleep plays a vital role in creativity and problem-solving. So well-rested people can slam-dunk big projects, solve those vexing problems, and generally kick butt at life.

Just how does sleep help us to be more creative? Thanks to fresh research, we know that sleep is not the passive state it was once believed to be—during sleep, our brains our busy strengthening our memories, but that’s not all that’s happening. Our memories are also sorted and made more relevant, which allows us to organize and connect ideas in new ways.

Want to make your sleep even more productive? Other scientists are studying ways that we can actually problem-solve during sleep. This Psychology Today article explains how you can improve creativity and problem-solving by incubating thoughts in your subconscious mind—a tactic that can improve creative thinking by 39 percent.

So the next time you’re stuck or need a creative boost, try getting some sleep (even just a nap). Set the problem on your brain’s back burner for a few hours or a few days, and see what happens. You might be pleasantly surprised at your brain’s ability to do the heavy lifting while you’re not even looking.

What about you—are you more creative after a full night's sleep? Or are you more of a "sleep when you're dead" type?

Reader Comments (2)

This is such a true statement. Sleep = creativity. The days our family doesn't get enough sleep all we want to do is take short cuts, watch movies, and not move. The good sleep days are full of crafts, kids helping with cooking, etc.. Thank you for this article

November 21, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKristine Strange

Thanks, Kristine! I think you make a great point that we all can use more creativity, whether we're artists, parents, employees, or all three. Creativity definitely helps with parenting, that's for sure!

November 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMalia Jacobson

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