Have you ever wondered why you’re more inclined to stay up all night to do a project rather than get up early? Or why you tend to come up with your best ideas and thoughts in the middle of the night, when you’re exhausted and trying to sleep? It might not be for the reasons you think it is. A recent study at Albion University, conducted in 2011, shows that people may actually be more creative when they’re tired.
The study had about 481 participants, and was conducted by Professor Mareike Wieth. In the study, the student participants had to take a test, and before that were asked to fill out a questionnaire to figure out if they were a morning person or an evening person. This was to figure out what their “optimal” work time would be. If you’re a morning person, you’re going to be wide awake and ready for anything at 8:30am. If you’re an evening person, your ideal work time would be anywhere after noon and into the evening. So, evening people would be tired at 8:30am and the morning people would be tired by 4:00pm.
The test that the students were given had both analytical problems and insight-based problems. The analytical problems were your typical math problems, and the insight-based problems were more logic and riddles. Analytical problems weren’t affected by tiredness. However, surprisingly, the people who were tired when they took the test actually did better on the insight-based problems.
The science behind it is actually pretty simple. Wieth explained to The Atlantic that when you’re tired, your thoughts are more likely to wander off to entirely random thoughts. This is actually a very helpful tool for insight-based or creative problems, because you need to be able to see the question outside of the box to find the answer. When you’re wide awake and able to put total focus onto the question, it limits your creativity and ability to correctly answer the question and think creatively.
So, what does this mean for you? It’s still best to get all of your important work done in the hours where you’re most awake and are able to focus – whether that’s in the morning or later at night, depending on your own internal clock. But if you’re having trouble getting the work done, then you might be better off waiting until you’re more tired and are able to think more freely.