It was during her sleep that Mary Shelley (left) found inspiration for Frankenstein. A dream led Dimitry Mendekeyev (right) to create the periodic table, and a dream is credited with improving the swing of golfing legend Jack Nicklaus.
Even if your slumber hasn’t led to a work of great fiction, the link between creativity and sleep is hard to deny. Studies have shown that a solid night’s sleep can improve problem solving skills by 50 per cent. While other studies have shown that a lack of sleep can impair brain performamce, therefore reducing creative performance.
Creatives throughout history seem to be aware of the power that sleep can have on their abilities to create. This chart created by New York magazine from the bedtimes collected from Mason Currey’s book, Daily Rituals: How Artists Work, shows the sleep routines of some of the most creative contemporary and historical figures. It shows not only the how much sleep they get, but the apparent time of resting and rising too. Beethoven slept 8 hours (from 10pm to 6am). As does contemporary performance artist Marina Abramovic. Darwin slept 7 hours (12pm – 7am), with an hour siesta during the day. And though he went to bed and rose late, F. Scott Fitzgerald sleep 7.5 hours a night (from 3:30am – 11am). These times should be no surprise given his penchant for a Parisian soirée.
It seems that not only is it important to get plenty of sleep, but it is also as important to have a solid routine. With consistency, your internal clock has the ability to know when you’re waking up, allowing for your last period of REM (our time for dreaming) to fall just as you are about to rise. No surprise that we are more likely to be creative if we wake during this time.
Conclusion: Get the right amount of sleep, and do it like clockwork.