• Advice

A tired brain is a more creative brain, says science

Freelance night owls: tackle your most daunting creative problems in the early morning hours!

A slightly groggy and tired brain may produce some of your best creative insights, according to an article published in Thinking and Reasoning.

Studies show that people perform better on creative, insight-based challenges when they are less awake, according to Mareike Wieth, a professor at Albion College who led a 2011 study.

Participants were divided into morning people or night owls based on their answers to a questionnaire -- they were then asked to solve 3 “analytic” (or math- based problems) and 3 “insight” problems, which requires creative thinking to solve a perplexing challenge. Subjects consistently did better on insight problems when sleepier.

The reason may be that finding solutions to creative obstacles requires seeing a problem from a new angle or point of view, as reported by Olga Khazan in The Atlantic.

During the most productive hours of your day, your ability to focus is at its peak, and you can skillfully block out distractions. On the other hand, when you’re tired, your thoughts flit about more freely.

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In your groggier state, you are more susceptible to random, passing thoughts that “combine with your main thought” and facilitate a creative breakthrough.

Other experts back up this claim: “In order to be creative, sometimes you need to consider some ideas that don’t necessarily feel like they’re on track with what you’re trying to achieve, “ said social psychologist Dr. Ron Friedman in a Harvard Business Review podcast.

Friedman echoes Wieth’s conclusion that when we’re tired, we can have an influx of ideas that spur creativity, because we are not as good at blocking them out as we are during optimal hours of the day.

Have you ever had a creative breakthrough when you’re tired, groggy, or just burnt out?