Visual Creatives and Verbal Creatives May Sleep Differently

Visually creative people tend to have poorer quality of sleep overall, while verbally creative people tend to sleep longer and later, according to new research at the University of Haifa in Israel.

The study, which compared the sleeping patterns of social science and art students, strengthens the hypothesis that visual creativity and verbal creativity involve different psychobiological mechanisms.

“Visually creative people reported disturbed sleep leading to difficulties in daytime functioning,” said study co-author Neta Ram-Vlasov, a doctoral student at the Graduate School of Creative Art Therapies at the University of Haifa.

“In the case of verbally creative people, we found that they sleep more hours and go to sleep and get up later. In other words, the two types of creativity were associated with different sleep patterns.”

The researchers sought to understand how the two types of creativity influence objective aspects of sleep such as duration and timing (measures such as the time of falling asleep and waking up), and subjective aspects like sleep quality.

Creativity is often characterized by four traits: fluency — the ability to produce a wide range of ideas; flexibility — the ability to switch easily between different thought patterns in order to produce this wide range of ideas; originality — the unique quality of the idea relative to the ideas in the environment; and elaboration — the ability to develop each idea separately.

The study was conducted by Professor Tamar Shochat of the Department of Nursing and doctoral student Ram-Vlasov, together with Amit Green from the Sleep Institute at Assuta Medical Center and Professor Orna Tzischinsky from the Department of Psychology at Yezreel Valley College.

The study involved 30 undergraduate students from seven academic institutions, half of whom were majoring only in art and half of whom were majoring only in social sciences. The participants took visual and verbal creativity tests. They also underwent overnight electrophysiological sleep recordings, wore a wrist activity monitor (a device that measures sleep objectively), and completed a sleep monitoring diary and a questionnaire on sleep habits in order to measure the pattern and quality of sleep.

The researchers found that among all the participants, the higher the level of visual creativity, the lower the quality of their sleep. This was manifested in such aspects as sleep disturbances and daytime dysfunction. The researchers also found that the higher the participants’ level of verbal creativity, the more hours they slept and the later they went to sleep and woke up.

A comparison between the sleep patterns of art students and non-art students found that art students tend to sleep more, but this in no way guarantees quality sleep. For example, art students evaluated their sleep as of lower quality and reported more sleep disturbances and daytime dysfunction than the non-art students.

Further studies may help determine whether creativity influences sleep or vice versa (or perhaps neither is the case).

“It is possible that a ‘surplus’ of visual creativity makes the individual more alert, and this could lead to sleep disturbances,” the researchers suggested. “On the other hand, it is possible that it is protracted sleep among verbally creativity individuals that facilitates processes that support the creative process while they are awake.

“In any case, these findings are further evidence of the fact that creativity is not a uniform concept. Visual creativity is activated by — and activates — different cerebral mechanisms than verbal creativity.”

Source: University of Haifa