I will discuss what my data shows, how easy or difficult I found this strategy to implement, and what previous research says. These three factors will be combined for an overall score and grade on how effective creativity in the evening can be for improving sleep.
HOW COULD CREATIVITY IMPROVE SLEEP QUALITY?
Creativity is something kids seem to do naturally when they are younger. However, Sir Ken Robinson believes that schools kill our creativity:
What if we could get back to our playful youths, and enjoy simply doing something fun or creative at night? Would it help us to feel more relaxed, and as a result sleep better?
For the first week, I did a mindfulness colouring book for at least 30 minutes in the evening of the first three night, a jigsaw puzzle for at least 30 minutes for the middle two nights, and played on my DJ decks for at least 30 minutes for the last two nights.
For the second week, I did no creative activities before bed, but tried to keep everything else as consistent as possible to the first week.
Let’s see if the three different creative outlets had any impact on my sleep for the week…
Comparison: Creativity vs No creativity
Based on my sleep diary data, the findings were as follows:
- The number of awakenings:
- No creativity – 1.14 per night
- Creativity – 1.57 per night
- less is better
- Time in bed:
- Creativity – 7 hours 43 minutes
- No creativity – 7 hours 30 minutes
- 8 hours is ideal for me
- Time to bed:
- No creativity – 10:39 pm
- Creativity – 10:16 am
- 11:30pm is ideal for me
- Total sleep time:
- Creativity – 6 hours 56 minutes
- No creativity – 6 hours 52 minutes
- 7 hours 30 minutes is ideal for me
- Sleep onset latency:
- No creativity – 14.29 minutes
- Creativity – 17.86 minutes
- quicker is better
- Wake after sleep onset:
- No creativity – 23.57 minutes
- Creativity – 28.57 minutes
- less is better
- Rise time:
- No creativity – 6:09 am
- Creativity – 5:59 am
- 7:30am is ideal for me
- Sleep quality:
- No creativity – 4.29/5
- Creativity – 4/5
- more is better
- Sleep efficiency:
- No creativity – 91.59%
- Creativity – 89.97%
- higher is better
AND THE WINNER IS…
With a count of 7 points to 2 points, the no creativity week was a generally better week of sleep than the week after spending at least 30 minutes doing something creative before bed. This is not promising for creativity overall as a strategy, but let’s look at them individually.
The DJing was super fun, but probably a bit too energising and led to me staying up a lot later on those nights and not sleeping as well.
I found the mindful colouring books a bit annoying, as colouring or drawing has never really been my forte, and probably brought up some unpleasant memories from when I was young. My sleep was worse on those nights as a result.
The one promising finding, and something that is worth looking at over a longer period of time for me is doing a jigsaw puzzle. By finding one that wasn’t too challenging and completing it by the second evening, I found it pretty relaxing and slept very soundly once I was asleep.
IS CREATIVITY A GOOD SLEEP STRATEGY?
IS IT EFFECTIVE?
It wasn’t for me, but that doesn’t mean that it won’t be for you. Doing jigsaw puzzles was a fun way to unwind at the end of the day, and I ended up sleeping better on those two nights. Mixing music was not as relaxing even though it was fun, and colouring annoyed me.
I, therefore, give the effectiveness of this strategy a 12/25.
CAN IT BE APPLIED?
It definitely can. Just find something that you would enjoy doing and that you find relaxing, and then give it a go. This might be writing a story, knitting, colouring, drawing, painting etc. Once you have bought the materials, give it a go for 30 minutes each night pre bed and see if it helps you. If you can find something that you can do with someone else, even better.
I, therefore, give the applicability of this strategy a 20/25.
IS IT SCIENTIFIC?
There is a lot of evidence that sleep can improve creativity the next day, with certain smells present during sleep further enhancing this creative potential (Ritter, Strick, Bos, Van Baaren & Dijksterhuis, 2012).
A more recent study even found that an abusive supervisor at work can reduce employee creativity by contributing to emotional exhaustion and sleep deprivation in the employee (Han, Harms & Bai, 2017).
I couldn’t find much evidence going in the other direction, however. One study looked at individuals higher in visual creativity, and found that it was associated with worse sleep quality, more disturbed sleep and increased daytime dysfunction (Ram-Vlasov, Tzischinsky, Green & Shoat, 2016). Higher verbal creativity was associated with more sleep overall and a delayed circadian phase (Ram-Vlasov et al., 2016). This doesn’t tell us what comes first, but creativity may not be the solution to better sleep.
I, therefore, give the science of this strategy a 20/50.
Overall, engaging in creative outlets before bed as a way to wind down and sleep better gets a score of 12/25 + 20/25 + 20/50 =
WHAT I RECOMMEND
Find something that helps you to switch off from work at the end of a busy day, not worry about sleep that night, and feel nice and relaxed and sleepy before you go to bed. If this is a creative outlet and it helps you to wind down and sleep well, then go for it. If it is something fun that you can do with your partner, housemates or family, even better.
If creativity doesn’t help, just move onto your next experiment and strategy that might assist your sleep. I’d recommend reading, music or meditation, but there are plenty of other strategies too.
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