A Nocturnal Mystery: Why Does The Creative Bug Strike You At Night?

Nocturnal creativity at night

Have you ever wondered just why all your best ideas come to you after the sun goes down?

Why suddenly, that problem that’s been looming over you all day long seems so small, and so easy to solve?

Is your mother aghast and amused in equal quantities as to why you simply refuse to sleep at night?

Do you too, tend to get creative the moment you sit down to study for the next exam?

Well fret not; you’re basically like almost everyone around the world.

The study of the brain and its working is certainly something very intriguing and surprising. Very often, you’re convinced that there is no better way to do something than what you’ve figured out already and out comes a report which tells you that your way, was very very wrong indeed. The brain can surprise everyone, time and again.

One of the most surprising studies we came across therefore, blows our mind away- The brain does creative work better when you’re tired.

Now you’d wonder the reason behind such a statement. Whatever happened to all those lectures you got from your parents about how waking up early would increase your productivity and alertness? Well dear reader, before you give out a big whoop and rush to show your parents this and scream “I told you so”, just hear me out.

Recent studies have shown that if you’re a morning person, then you’d prefer the early hours of any day to tackle the most analytical and demanding work. Your brain will be sharper and clearer and using it to solve your problems at its peak would be more beneficial. Obviously, this time of day comes at a far later hour for night owls.

But interestingly, the best part of the day to be creative, for all, is at night. Apparently, if you’re trying to do creative work, your brain will function more effectively if you are tired.


Nocturnal creativity at night


This has a very simple logic behind it, if you’re tired; your brain is not as good at filtering out distractions and focusing on a particular task. It’s also a lot less efficient at remembering connections between ideas or concepts. These are both good things when it comes to creative work, since this kind of work requires us to make new connections and think about the same old simple things in an entirely new light.


So a tired, fuzzy brain is of much more use to us when working on creative projects. While you maybe great at solving all your mathematics-related problem in the morning (or afternoon), your creative process, basically your eureka moments are usually when you’re tired and having a long warm bath. And mind you, this isn’t a recent phenomenon; this is even applicable to an old scientist’s greatest discovery!

Similarly, when you study, you tend to wear your brain out. It runs and works and jumps through the “obstacles” you put in front of it (the subject you’re studying) and manages to tire itself out. When you brain is tired and fuzzy, it starts to slowly zone out, and listen more closely to the distractions around it rather than what you are trying to focus on. At times like these, new chords and ideas strike you, which lead to a sudden onslaught of creativity, leaving you both happy and agitated in the same moment.


Nocturnal creativity at night



The plain old advice of taking breaks while you study and studying in 45-50 minute periods acts as an effective counter. Not only does this help you not zone out and start channeling your inner Beatles but, it also acts as a strong vaccination. Many times while studying in short periods, certain ideas as to how to make your own work, easier and more effective end up striking you,  be it “Oh, I should learn this through a mind map!” or “ Hey, there’s an easier way around this”, your mind invariably ends up turning its bane into a boon. Monotony is also a factor that tends to lull our brain into feeling tired, which again can be countered by using different colour pens for more attention, or channeling your creative spirit to actually put it to “studious” use and making up a poem about the different bones in your body!

While creativity is always welcome at any point, we’re sure that you definitely don’t want it to come knocking right in the middle of you trying to solve a quadratic equation and failing miserably. So the next time you’re tired and slowly inching towards your guitar and further away from books, you know what to do, lest dad comes in at the absolutely wrong moment and you are subjected to another lecture again!


Illustrations courtesy of Srishti Dass

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *