Sweet Dreams: Why artists need good sleep habits

Creativity depends on adequate rest, even if it's hard to come by.

While most traditional workers are headed home after working from nine to five, many musicians and artists are just beginning their workday.

The vast majority of musical performances, shows, and celebrations are held in the evening hours.  This means that getting a good night’s sleep is often a struggle for the working artist. By the time most of us get home to our beds, it may feel like the pillow is a long lost companion.

It’s common for artists to believe they are night-owls by nature and that they do their best work at night. Science does suggest that we all have different times during the day in which our minds are more active and creative. But that doesn’t mean sleep is a negotiable factor in maintaining your mental and physical health.  Studies indicate that without proper sleep, we are less able to cope with stress, and our reaction times and memorization skills decline.

Still, many musicians and artists believe the longer we work into the night hours, the better. Call it “worshiping the hustle”, if you will. Sleep is an unwelcome enemy to those that believe more work equals more output.

However, it’s possible that neglecting proper rest has the opposite effect on your creativity. One study showed that the musicians that tended to sleep longer were more skilled than those who practiced the same amount of time, but slept less. 

While we sleep, the brain rebuilds, remembers, and refreshes what we’ve learned and rehearsed. While you may believe your all-night sessions are productive, you may be trying to pull ideas out of an empty tank.

In other words, sleep should be a friend, not a foe, of artists.

For most of us, the hard part isn’t determining if sleep is important. It’s figuring out how to get more sleep when our careers demand late night shows, frequent flights across time zones, and creative sessions that stretch into early morning hours. There are excellent resources available for people with irregular schedules that can help improve your sleep habits.

Make getting enough sleep a priority. You may find your best ideas come to light while your eyes are closed.

Man is a genius when he is sleeping. – Akira Kurosawa, filmmaker


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