EachNight may earn commissions for products you purchase through links on our site. Our articles include affiliate links and advertisements, including Amerisleep, LLC advertising. Learn more Updated May 18, 2021Sleep has a profound effect on our creativity. When we don’t get enough sleep, not only do we feel groggy the next day, but our minds are affected in ways we may not realize. Sleep affects how both sides of the brain function.Our brains have two sides: right and left. The right brain is more imaginative and forms ideas outside the box. The left brain is more disciplined and follows structures and rules.While it’s true that the right brain is more creative than the left brain, both sides contribute to the creative process. Better sleep helps the brain make connections and solve problems, fueling the creative process. Without sleep, the brain struggles to form ideas and perform at its best.What Happens to the Brain During Sleep?During an 8-hour sleep period, your body cycles 3 to 5 times through the stages of non-REM and REM sleep. One full cycle varies due to individual differences and takes roughly 75-90 minutes. Each stage rejuvenates your body and helps your mind sort and store information from the previous day.Non-REM SleepNon-REM (non-rapid eye movement) is dreamless sleep. During non-REM, we cycle through three stages of sleep before REM sleep. Each stage prepares our minds and bodies for deep sleep.Stage 1During Stage 1, our heart rate, breathing, and eye movements start to slow down. Our muscles begin to relax. You may experience an occasional twitching sensation. Brain waves start to slow down from daytime activity.Stage 2Stage 2 is light sleep. Your heart rate and breathing continue to slow down. Your muscles relax even more, and eye movement stops. Body temperature drops a few degrees. Brain wave activity continues to slow down with small bursts of electrical signals.Stage 3You’ve now entered deep, slow-wave sleep in Stage 3. Both your heart rate and breathing is at its lowest level. The muscles are completely relaxed—it may be hard to wake you up at this stage. Brain waves are at their slowest. This stage makes up about 20 percent of a person’s total sleep time.REM SleepREM, or rapid eye movement, is the final stage of the sleep cycle. During this stage, brain wave activity increases, almost similar to wakefulness. Dreaming occurs during REM. The muscles in your body are also temporarily paralyzed to prevent you from acting out your dreams.How Sleep Improves Creative ThinkingThere’s been a lot of speculation in sleep science on whether time spent in non-REM or REM improves the creative process most.The University of California in San Diego did a study where researchers performed a Remote Associates Test (RAT). Participants were divided into three groups—one group was allowed to rest, but not sleep. The second group was able to enter non-REM sleep but not REM sleep. The third group was allowed to enter both non-REM and REM sleep.Researchers found that the group that was allowed to have both types of sleep saw an increase in creative thinking ability. Forty percent of these participants also scored better on a creativity test than the other groups.Pattern RecognitionDreaming is a way for the brain to evaluate real-world experiences. The brain goes through and decides which memories to encode as long-term memory. This auto-evaluation sorts and strengthens neural connections—the brain can assess a problem from earlier without outside interruptions. This helps you see the problem in a new way, making it easier to solve the following day.In 1993, Harvard Medical School did a research study, where participants were instructed to ask themselves a question right before bed. Each day for a week, participants would write out the same question before bedtime and record any dreams they had. They made special notes on dreams that pertained to a possible solution to their question. At the end of the week, over half of the participants dreamt about the issue, and a quarter of them found a solution during their dream cycle.Memory ConsolidationDuring the day, memories are stored in the part of the brain called the hippocampus. During deep sleep (Stage 3 of non-REM), the brain takes those memories and gradually transfers them to the cortex as long-term memory.Memory consolidation is vital to the creative problem-solving process because creative solutions rely on existing knowledge. During the consolidation process, the brain is also focusing on memories connected with stronger emotions. Creativity is optimal when our brains can access and apply information. Sleep helps with both of these processes.Calm EmotionsThe emotional center of the brain is called the amygdala. It’s responsible for our “fight or flight” response in high-stress situations. The amygdala is more activated by intense emotions, explaining why these memories that involve strong feelings are typically more accessible to us. The prefrontal cortex regulates the amygdala. When we get plenty of sleep, we’re better able to process feelings and make wise decisions. Some studies show that 65 percent of adults who slept more than 7 hours each night have better mental health than adults running on less than 7 hours of sleep.Those who get enough sleep are more likely to start the day feeling refreshed. Sufficient sleep may cause you to feel more energetic and experience more positive emotions. This boost makes it easier to handle stress and improves your capability to take on more challenging tasks. Experiencing more positive emotions may also give you the incentive to put into action your creative thoughts.How Sleep Loss Impairs Creative ThinkingWhen you don’t get enough sleep, there’s more going on than feeling drowsy during the day. Your body wasn’t able to fully go through each sleep stage. As a result, your mind and body are not rejuvenated and ready for the day. This can have a detrimental effect on your problem-solving skills and thought processes.Poor MemoryLess sleep may disrupt the REM cycle, slowing down brain function and make it harder to remember things. During REM, the brain incorporates the previous day’s experiences into long-term memory. When this process is disrupted, you may find yourself struggling to remember your assigned tasks or how to approach creative ideas you had the other day.Lack of FocusSleep loss causes you to feel groggy during the day. Among other processes, this grogginess is most likely influenced by adenosine. Adenosine is a metabolite or chemical that your body produces that causes you to feel sleepy. When you get plenty of rest and wake in the morning, adenosine levels are low, but gradually build up each hour you’re awake.If you don’t get a good night’s sleep, adenosine build-up continues and causes you to feel drowsy. Since your brain didn’t get enough time to rejuvenate, you may be less alert to your surroundings and have a harder time concentrating. This can make it difficult to perform tasks.Sleep deprivation also impairs judgment. You are unable to assess a situation thoroughly and are more likely to take bigger risks and ignore the consequences of losing.Inability to Track and FocusMany of our tasks that involve multiple steps and sustained focus can be difficult for our brains, even when we are fully rested. Multitasking or doing complex tasks requires more energy and focus—sleep deprivation reduces both. You may find it harder to focus on one task, move between multiple tasks, and optimally complete complex tasks.Recent research from the Duke-National University of Singapore suggests that the more tasks a sleep-deprived person took on, the more mistakes were made. This study reflects individuals who work 40-hour weeks running on less than 8 hours of sleep.More MistakesPoor sleep may lead to lapses in attention. Since you lack focus, the decisions you make are affected. People who are sleep deprived are twice as likely to make mistakes than those who got a full night’s rest.Sleep deprivation also leads to a more significant risk of making mistakes in any procedure with multiple, complex steps, including driving and work.Erratic BehaviorAfter a night of little sleep, you may find yourself feeling grouchy during the day. That’s because the prefrontal cortex has less control over the amygdala in your brain. Research shows that the amygdala is 60 percent more reactive when running on less than 7 hours of sleep.This leads to mood swings and negative emotions. You may also have a harder time dealing with stress and anxiety, which could increase cortisol levels (stress hormone).Achieve Better SleepFollow a sleep schedule.Setting a regular sleep routine is an excellent way to sleep better. Having a set wake and sleep time gets your body into a rhythm. When it’s time for bed, you’ll start to feel sleepy. Make sure to stick to this schedule even on weekends—sleeping in for a few extra hours could throw off your sleep pattern. Sleep expert and co-author of Ending the Insomnia Struggle, Dr. Colleen Ehrnstrom shares, “Even if you have a terrible night of sleep, try your best to get up at the same time in the morning. It is better to add a nap or rest time later in the day to catch up on sleep, than to sleep in and disrupt your daily routine.”Avoid electronic devices an hour before bedtime.While you may find scrolling through your phone at night relaxing, it actually may make it harder to fall asleep. Electronic devices, like smartphones and tablets, give off blue light. Blue light causes your brain to think it’s daytime and may suppress melatonin production. Melatonin is a key hormone that regulates sleep; with less melatonin, you’re more likely to struggle falling asleep and staying asleep. If you feel you must use these devices, use the night mode or other settings to reduce/eliminate as much of the blue light as possible.Don’t eat heavy meals.The best time to eat dinner is at least 3 hours before sleep, allowing our stomachs time to digest food. When we eat heavy meals, especially late at night, it takes the stomach longer to digest. This means, when bedtime rolls around, you may have a harder time falling asleep because your body is more focused on digesting that meal than following the natural process to prepare for sleep.Keep the bedroom dark and cool.Since the natural, sleep-inducing hormone melatonin regulates your sleep-wake cycle, it’s essential to keep your bedroom dark and cool. Any exposure to light could reduce melatonin levels, making sleep more difficult. Your body naturally drops in temperature as it prepares for sleep. Maintaining an even, cool atmosphere will help you stay asleep and prevent night sweats.Take a bath or shower an hour before bed.A warm bath or shower not only relaxes tense muscles, but it can also induce sleep. Your body gives off more heat after a bath or shower because your core body temperature has risen. As it prepares for sleep, your body naturally drops in temperature. The ideal time for sleep is when the core body temperature is dropping. Dr. Ehrnstrom notes, “Bodies respond differently to heat so it is important to track when heat is supportive to sleep. For some, you will want to increase core body temperature even earlier, sometimes 2 to 4 hours before bedtime.”FAQsWhich side of the brain is more creative?Both sides of the brain are responsible for different functions, including how we learn.The left brain is responsible for:Analytic thoughtLanguageNumber skillsScience and mathReasoningLogical thinkingThe right brain is responsible for:CreativityInsightImaginationHolistic thought3D FormsArtsThe right side is where we access our brain’s creativity. The right brain is more visual and less organized, expanding our creative thought process. The left brain is more verbal and logical, following set rules and patterns.How can I develop a creative mind?Even though our brains have two different sides, responsible for different functions, we can utilize our minds to build up our creativity. The idea that right-brained people are more creative than left-brain people is a myth. Creativity comes from both sides of the brain. Here are five ways to boost your creativity.Use both sides of the brain.Participating in simple activities, like origami or brushing your teeth with your non-dominant hand, exercises your brain by forcing both sides to work together. Your brain needs both sides to come up with creative ideas. For example, a scientific idea is both logical and rational, but without looking outside the box and exploring new methods, that idea may never grow.Daydream.Something as simple as daydreaming can tap you into your creative side. Letting your mind wander may unearth ideas and thoughts. Record these thoughts and put them into action, like writing a short story or drawing a picture.Take a break.If you’ve been stuck on a problem and are having trouble making any headway, the best thing to do is stop and take a break. Walking away from an issue for a few minutes can refresh your mind and may help you see it in a different light.Try something new.Be more open to ideas. Expanding your knowledge can drastically improve your creative thought process. The more information you have, the more ideas and connections you can make.Explain an idea.As you read or study new information, taking that information and explaining it to a friend, family member, or even just yourself can boost your creativity. Think about it. When you explain something, you’re taking an existing idea and shaping it into something new because it’s from your perspective. Plus, hearing information out loud may also help you form new ideas and connections.Think in visual terms. If you find yourself in a verbal relationship with a problem (e.g. words), consider shifting your thought process into visual pictures. Dr. Ehrnstrom notes, “There is an additional benefit to this process in that visual thinking has been linked to having an easier time falling asleep at night.”What does lack of sleep do to your mind?Losing out on sleep has short and long-term consequences. After one night of poor sleep, you will feel drowsy, have slower reaction times, and experience trouble concentrating. Prolonged periods of sleep loss can lead to neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s.Do dreams make us more creative?Relatively little is known about the psychology of dreams, but the act of dreaming can improve creativity. For some, dreaming can also improve problem-solving skills. The more opportunity we give our brains to rest and recover, the more opportunity we give our brains to tap into creativity.Are 5 hours of sleep enough?No, 5 hours of sleep is not enough. You can experience serious consequences if you continue to lose 2-3 hours of sleep each and every night, even if you’re using that time to work on goals or projects. Eventually, your lack of sleep will inhibit your productivity and your creativity, and the time you “saved” not sleeping won’t be worth anything. For adults, we want to strive for an average of at least 7 hours a night. ConclusionYou may feel that you can function perfectly with little to no sleep, but the truth is, less sleep limits your ability to think creatively. It can also limit your ability to notice your lack of creativity. During sleep, your brain processes and then stores information into your memory banks. Not enough sleep disrupts this process and makes it harder for you to make connections and find solutions to everyday problems. We need creativity to boost our mood and perform at our best.About the author Malik Karman“Professional sleeper” Malik Karman is a freelance writer for the eachnight blog. Over the years, Malik has read countless medical studies and explored hundreds of different bedding products in an effort to better understand what goes into a restorative night’s rest. Malik curates many of our “best mattress” guides to assist readers in the mattress buying process. Find more articles by Malik Comments Cancel replyLeave a CommentYour email address will not be published. Required fields are marked * Comment Name Email I agree to the Terms and Conditions of this website.