Creative Insomnia Update - Perspectives from The Artist's Road

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Creative Insomnia


Perspectives from The Artist's Road

Summer Night, 1890, Winslow Homer
Summer Night     1890     Winslow Homer

 "If the insomnia of a musician

allows him to create beautiful pieces,

it is a beautiful insomnia."

                                       - Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

    Common experience informs most of us that sleep is essential for insightful and creative thinking during waking hours. Beyond common knowledge, scientific studies confirm that, in particular, REM sleep enhances creative problem solving. A study conducted at the University of California - San Diego, illustrates that the four or five periods of REM sleep we experience at night (which typically total about 90 to 120 minutes), enhance our creative processing more than any other sleep or wake state.

   The study, conducted by Sara Mednick, PhD, assistant professor of psychiatry at UC San Diego, shows that REM sleep appears to help achieve creative solutions by stimulating associative networks, "allowing the brain to make new and useful associations between unrelated ideas."

   The study used a creativity test in which participants were shown multiple groups of three words and asked to find a fourth word that could be associated to all three words. They were tested in the morning and again in the afternoon, either after a nap with REM sleep, a nap without REM sleep, or simply a quiet period of rest. Those who napped without experiencing REM sleep along with those who rested quietly, experienced no improvement on the test. "Strikingly, however, the REM sleep group improved by almost 40 percent over their morning performances.”

   On the other side of the coin, and the planet, a study in New Zealand of children ages ten to twelve showed that those participants who had high scores on creativity tests were more than twice as likely to have sleep disturbances than those who had average scores on creativity tests. The study suggested that creative abilities may adversely affect one's sleep patterns.

   It would seem that, depending on which research you favor, insomnia is either a hindrance to creativity, or a boost! From personal experience, we know that a vibrant imagination can keep a brain awake through the wee hours and that a fear of sleeplessness can amplify one's inability to fall asleep! Some artists have argued that their insomnia is essential to their creative output. Unstructured time late at night provides them with extra hours free of distractions to create. Picasso was famous for his all night creative sessions and sleeping during the day.

   We've found that one avenue for the creative insomniac is to take advantage of all the possibilities that painting at night can bring. And for that purpose, here is a list of this year's remaining full moons - ideal opportunities for painting outdoors at night.

2022 Full Moons:
June 14th Full Strawberry Moon                         

July 13th  Full Buck Moon

August 11th  Full Sturgeon Moon 
September 10th  Full Corn Moon

October 9th  Full Hunter's Moon                             

November 8th  Full Beaver Moon

December 7th  Full Cold Moon
   (If you would like to read the creative work of some famous insomniacs on the subject of insomnia, try Acquainted with the Night: Insomnia Poems, edited by Lisa Russ Spaar.)


Copyright Hulsey Trusty Designs, L.L.C. (except where noted). All rights reserved.
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A Primer on Night Painting - Nocturnes

Nocturnes - A Primer on Night Painting

Filled with inspirational examples by the masters of nightime painting, this little book is sure to fire up your creative energies. Never tried painting at night? We show you how it's done with a step-by-step-oil demo and a tale of night painting in the wilds of Rocky Mountain National Park. The Primer on Night Painting - Nocturnes is a 7 x 7" PDF download with 40 pages of text and images. It includes a gallery of paintings by masters of the nocturne, information to inspire and encourage you in your plein air nocturne painting, an illustrated step-by-step demo and tips for working in pastel and oil. Also available in a softcover edition. Check out the tools and other products that we use in our own art and travels in The Artist's Road Store. We only offer things for sale that we enthusiastically believe in.







About Us

Photograph of John Hulsey and Ann Trusty in Glacier National Park
We are artists, authors and teachers with over 40 years of experience in painting the world's beautiful places. We created The Artist's Road in order to share our knowledge and experiences with you, and create a community of like-minded individuals.  You can learn more about us and see our original paintings by clicking on the links below.
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