Sleep (or lack of it) and creativity.

If you are a college student, if you are planning on one day being one, or if you have been one in the past then perhaps you know—sleep is not prevalent. We students find ourselves frequently in a strange cycle of sleep that often involves not having enough sleep. Whether we have extremely late evenings, very early mornings, or all-nighters, the college environment is not always conducive to sleep.



Coffee: One of my favorite ways to fight sleep deprivation.

Which brings me to an absolutely fascinating blog I stumbled upon this past week and have been actively reading through. Entitled “The Subjects” it takes four artists who use media from acrylics to the internet to create their works and places them in a sleep deprivation lab for a week.

Essentially, these four subjects are completely under the scientists’ control. They can sleep only when they are told and have no access to clocks. They eat whatever is provided for them. Each day, the subjects are required to work on some piece of art, whatever for it may take. All signed up voluntarily to test their creativity against the normalcies of sleep and time and they express their daily feelings through blog posts—written on a computer unconnected to the outside world and with no clock.

I find this idea positively fascinating and recommend reading through the blog in its entirely. It happened in real time about a week ago and hopefully will continue to be updated. Here are a few quotes I pulled from my read-through which give you an idea for the level of reflection throughout the blog:

“We should all flail helplessly more often. We should laugh at our efforts to make sense of anything. We should never stop trying to make sense of everything, using italics and all-caps when we brush up against the terror of impermanence.”

(Perhaps a tad reminiscent of my recent tangent on confusion?)

“My brain is percolating in a stew of its own making, twitching through a series of semantic reflexes in the hope of making the profoundly abnormal seem absolutely normal. Our brains are good at this.”

“I think that’s an important part of any creative process – to turn the world on its head and shake it until you see what falls out.”

These are just a few nuggets of the delightful perceptions littered throughout the blog about sleep, creativity, control, and more. Which leads me to where I started this post—I can’t help but feel sometimes that college is a bit of a microcosm highly promoting sleep deprivation, and that causes me to wonder how it’s all affecting our creativity and even our academic work. I don’t know that I have an answer to that, but that doesn’t make it worth considering. In the ever-so-relatable words of one of the subjects, Sean Williams, “tired is the new awake.”

One thought on “Sleep (or lack of it) and creativity.

  1. Pingback: Coffee and The Golden Mean | Tangents

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