ZenStorming

Where Science Meets Muse

Archive for December 26th, 2008

Cortisol Levels and Sleeping, Stress and Creativity

Posted by Plish on December 26, 2008

This recently published blurb in Wired gives three reasons why sleeping late may be better than going to bed early and rising early.

They are:

1. You may need more sleep than you think (i.e. You don’t sleep nearly enough)

2. Night Owls are more creative.

3. Rising early occurs during peak Cortisol levels so you may feel tension upon waking early.

When I checked the study responsible for point number 3, another interesting thing became obvious and it may account for point Number 2.

Cortisol is also at its lowest between 10pm and 1am. If stress hormone is low, creativity may be higher during these times.

FORMULA A: Less stress hormone (Cortisol)=more relaxed=more creative.

If I extrapolate a Creativity Curve based upon the cortisol curve we see the following:

Circadian Rhythm Graph with creativity

Possible Creativity vs. Cortisol Curve (michael plishka, 2008; red curve courtesy of http://www.phoqus.com)

Is the above relationship absolute? Probably not. The folks over at the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind-Body Medicine have shown that changes in stress (i.e the relaxation response) can produce “aha” moments. And, as I mentioned here, stress is essential to performance. So there are most likely some micro-stress trends within the larger trends that can help or hinder creativity.

Nevertheless, studies are starting to show that increased cortisol levels that don’t decline during the day may induce clinical depression.  So…

FORMULA B: Less sleep=greater stress=clinical depression=less sleep=greater stress…

It’s a downward spiral that will not help with creative endeavors.

What do we take away from this all?

1. We need sleep.

2. We have to be careful not to stay up too late. If we overshoot our lowest cortisol levels, we may have trouble falling asleep. Since cortisol rises quickly in the AM, we don’t want to be stuck getting stressed when we should be recouping. Rising cortisol levels also might maker it more difficult to stay asleep or get good quality sleep. That means waking up feeling sleep deprived and that puts us into FORMULA B above….bad news.

3. We need to learn to relax better- take time to meditate/pray/relax/play so that we minimize the effects of stress when we’re awake.

What are your thoughts on creativity and sleep?

Posted in Nature of Creativity, Research, Science, stress, Workplace Creativity, Yerkes-Dodson Curve | Tagged: , , , , | 22 Comments »

 
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