Would Being More Creative Improve Your Sleep?

The twenty-fourth variable that I will be manipulating across a two week period to examine their impact on sleep is creativity. I will see if using mindfulness colouring books, doing jigsaw puzzles or playing on DJ decks can have a substantial effect on sleep quality. 

I will discuss what my data shows, how easy or difficult I found this strategy to implement, and what previous research says. These three factors will be combined for an overall score and grade on how effective creativity in the evening can be for improving sleep.

HOW COULD CREATIVITY IMPROVE SLEEP QUALITY?

Creativity is something kids seem to do naturally when they are younger. However, Sir Ken Robinson believes that schools kill our creativity:

What if we could get back to our playful youths, and enjoy simply doing something fun or creative at night? Would it help us to feel more relaxed, and as a result sleep better?

 

THE EXPERIMENT

woman pouring down a brown paintFor the first week, I did a mindfulness colouring book for at least 30 minutes in the evening of the first three night, a jigsaw puzzle for at least 30 minutes for the middle two nights, and played on my DJ decks for at least 30 minutes for the last two nights.

For the second week, I did no creative activities before bed, but tried to keep everything else as consistent as possible to the first week.

Let’s see if the three different creative outlets had any impact on my sleep for the week…

THE OUTCOME

sleep diary episode 24 - creative outlets.jpg

Comparison: Creativity vs No creativity

Based on my sleep diary data, the findings were as follows:

  • The number of awakenings:
    1. No creativity – 1.14 per night
    2. Creativity – 1.57 per night
      • less is better
  • Time in bed:
    1. Creativity – 7 hours 43 minutes
    2. No creativity – 7 hours 30 minutes
      • 8 hours is ideal for me
  • Time to bed:
    1. No creativity – 10:39 pm
    2. Creativity – 10:16 am
      • 11:30pm is ideal for me
  • Total sleep time:
    1. Creativity – 6 hours 56 minutes
    2. No creativity – 6 hours 52 minutes
      • 7 hours 30 minutes is ideal for me
  • Sleep onset latency:
    1. No creativity – 14.29 minutes
    2. Creativity – 17.86 minutes
      • quicker is better
  • Wake after sleep onset:
    1. No creativity – 23.57 minutes
    2. Creativity – 28.57 minutes
      • less is better
  • Rise time:
    1. No creativity – 6:09 am
    2. Creativity – 5:59 am
      • 7:30am is ideal for me
  • Sleep quality:
    1. No creativity – 4.29/5
    2. Creativity – 4/5
      • more is better
  • Sleep efficiency:
    1. No creativity – 91.59%
    2. Creativity – 89.97%
      • higher is better

AND THE WINNER IS…

With a count of 7 points to 2 points, the no creativity week was a generally better week of sleep than the week after spending at least 30 minutes doing something creative before bed. This is not promising for creativity overall as a strategy, but let’s look at them individually.

The DJing was super fun, but probably a bit too energising and led to me staying up a lot later on those nights and not sleeping as well.

I found the mindful colouring books a bit annoying, as colouring or drawing has never really been my forte, and probably brought up some unpleasant memories from when I was young. My sleep was worse on those nights as a result.

The one promising finding, and something that is worth looking at over a longer period of time for me is doing a jigsaw puzzle. By finding one that wasn’t too challenging and completing it by the second evening, I found it pretty relaxing and slept very soundly once I was asleep.

IS CREATIVITY A GOOD SLEEP STRATEGY?

blue and purple color pencils

IS IT EFFECTIVE?

It wasn’t for me, but that doesn’t mean that it won’t be for you. Doing jigsaw puzzles was a fun way to unwind at the end of the day, and I ended up sleeping better on those two nights. Mixing music was not as relaxing even though it was fun, and colouring annoyed me.

I, therefore, give the effectiveness of this strategy a 12/25.

CAN IT BE APPLIED?

It definitely can. Just find something that you would enjoy doing and that you find relaxing, and then give it a go. This might be writing a story, knitting, colouring, drawing, painting etc. Once you have bought the materials, give it a go for 30 minutes each night pre bed and see if it helps you. If you can find something that you can do with someone else, even better.

I, therefore, give the applicability of this strategy a 20/25. 

IS IT SCIENTIFIC?

There is a lot of evidence that sleep can improve creativity the next day, with certain smells present during sleep further enhancing this creative potential (Ritter, Strick, Bos, Van Baaren & Dijksterhuis, 2012).

A more recent study even found that an abusive supervisor at work can reduce employee creativity by contributing to emotional exhaustion and sleep deprivation in the employee (Han, Harms & Bai, 2017).

I couldn’t find much evidence going in the other direction, however. One study looked at individuals higher in visual creativity, and found that it was associated with worse sleep quality, more disturbed sleep and increased daytime dysfunction (Ram-Vlasov, Tzischinsky, Green & Shoat, 2016). Higher verbal creativity was associated with more sleep overall and a delayed circadian phase (Ram-Vlasov et al., 2016). This doesn’t tell us what comes first, but creativity may not be the solution to better sleep.

I, therefore, give the science of this strategy a 20/50.

Overall, engaging in creative outlets before bed as a way to wind down and sleep better gets a score of 12/25 + 20/25 + 20/50 =

52/100: Pass

top angle photo of child holding pencil while drawing female angel playing wind instrument

WHAT I RECOMMEND

Find something that helps you to switch off from work at the end of a busy day, not worry about sleep that night, and feel nice and relaxed and sleepy before you go to bed. If this is a creative outlet and it helps you to wind down and sleep well, then go for it. If it is something fun that you can do with your partner, housemates or family, even better.

If creativity doesn’t help, just move onto your next experiment and strategy that might assist your sleep. I’d recommend reading, music or meditation, but there are plenty of other strategies too.

Thanks for reading! If you would like a personalised sleep report and the five best things that you could do to best improve your sleep, please check out our services.

Can Doing Yoga or Pilates Regularly Assist Sleep?

The twenty-third variable that I will be manipulating across a two week period to examine their impact on sleep is yoga and pilates. I will see if doing yoga or pilates in the early evening can have a substantial effect on sleep quality. 

I will discuss what my data shows, how easy or difficult I found this strategy to implement, and what previous research says. These three factors will be combined for an overall score and grade on how effective yoga and pilates can be for improving sleep.

HOW COULD YOGA AND/OR PILATES IMPROVE SLEEP QUALITY?

When I was a teenager, I remember thinking yoga was just for new age hippies. I stayed as far away from it as I possibly could. The funny thing is that it actually could have helped me a lot. I was a super stressed kid who generally worried about things and was way too hard on himself. Taking an hour out of my day to reconnect with my body and calm down would have done me wonders if only I gave it a shot. Instead, it wasn’t until I was 29 when I first tried it.

Of all the types of yoga, Bikram or hot yoga is probably the toughest I’ve tried. I was exhausted and dehydrated after the 90-minute session, and generally more relaxed, but mostly just relieved that the session was done. Yin yoga is the most relaxing that I have tried, and I even fell asleep for a little bit during a session the last time I tried it.

My first exposure was to pilates was a little earlier – probably 25. My mother bought a reformer machine after seeing it on a late night infomercial (she doesn’t sleep too well at times). I ended up using the machine more than she did, and found that it really did improve my core strength and reduce my lower back pain. I’m not too sure if it helped my sleep though.

THE EXPERIMENT

backlit beach dawn dusk 

For the first week, I was in the USA visiting friends and did 30-minutes of yoga for the first four days in the late afternoon/early evening and 30 minutes of floor pilates for the next 3 days in the late afternoon/early evening.

For the second week, I flew back from the USA to Melbourne and did no yoga or pilates for the week.

Let’s see if the yoga or pilates sessions had any impact on my sleep for the week…

THE OUTCOME

sleep diary episode 23 - pilates:yoga.jpg

woman in red shirt sitting on fitness equipment

Comparison: Yoga or Pilates vs No treatment

Based on my sleep diary data, the findings were as follows:

  • The number of awakenings:
    1. Yoga/Pilates – 1.29 per night
    2. No treatment – 2.2 per night
      • less is better
  • Time in bed:
    1. No treatment – 7 hours 29 minutes
    2. Yoga/Pilates – 7 hours 19 minutes
      • 8 hours is ideal for me
  • Time to bed:
    1. Yoga/Pilates – 10:57 pm
    2. No treatment – 10:01 pm
      • 11:30pm is ideal for me
  • Total sleep time:
    1. Yoga/Pilates – 6 hours 46 minutes
    2. No treatment – 6 hours 42 minutes
      • 7 hours 30 minutes is ideal for me
  • Sleep onset latency:
    1. No treatment – 10 minutes
    2. Yoga/Pilates – 12.86 minutes
      • quicker is better
  • Wake after sleep onset:
    1. Yoga/Pilates – 20 minutes
    2. No treatment – 37 minutes
      • less is better
  • Rise time:
    1. No treatment – 7:16 am
    2. Yoga/Pilates – 5:30 am
      • 7:30am is ideal for me
  • Sleep quality:
    1. Yoga/Pilates – 4.29/5
    2. No treatment – 3.6/5
      • more is better
  • Sleep efficiency:
    1. Yoga/Pilates – 92.51%
    2. No treatment – 89.53%
      • higher is better

AND THE WINNER IS…

With a count of 7 points to 2 points, the week where I did yoga and pilates was better than the week of no interventions.

The most significant asterisk with this two weeks is me being on holidays for the first week in the USA, then flying back to Melbourne, and then going back to work for 3 of the 5 days in the second week. Coming back to work after a holiday usually means more stress, and flying back from the US usually means jetlag. Me having an average wake-time of 5:30am the second week is a good indicator of the jet lag I was experiencing, as this is much earlier than I would typically get out of bed in the morning.

Yoga and pilates seemed to improve my sleep, but it also could have been me taking things a little slower and relaxing while I was on holidays, plus I was enjoying spending time with American friends that I hadn’t seen for a while. It’s hard to know what led to the improvements in comparison to the week after.

IS DOING YOGA OR PILATES A GOOD SLEEP STRATEGY?

man doing yoga pose on blue mat beside seashore

IS IT EFFECTIVE?

It seems to be. Like I said, being on holidays, having a less hectic day and in general feeling less stressed during the first week could have led to the better sleep, The regular yoga and pilates did seem to help me to tune into what I was feeling in my body, and this led to a bit better sleep that night.

I, therefore, give the effectiveness of this strategy an 18/25.

CAN IT BE APPLIED?

Yes. Especially if you just type in yoga or pilates workout on youtube and you have access to a smartphone, it doesn’t cost anything and only requires 30 minutes a day. If you wanted to go to classes on a regular basis instead, it would become expensive and time-consuming quickly. This makes it a little bit less accessible than some other strategies.

I, therefore, give the applicability of this strategy a 17/25. 

IS IT SCIENTIFIC?

Yoga was shown to improve sleep quality, sleep efficiency, the time taken to get to sleep, total sleep time, fatigue, overall well-being, depression, anger, stress and vitality, as well as improved physical, emotional and social functioning in older adults (Halpern et al., 2014). It can also improve depression, posture and sleep quality in children with cerebral palsy (Gokcek et al., 2017).

A meta-analysis of eight English-language pilates studies showed that pilates produces a significant reduction in depression, anxiety and fatigue and significantly increases feelings of energy (Fleming & Herring, 2018). A 2014 study by Ashrafinia and colleagues found that 8 weeks of pilates 30-minutes a day, 5 days a week in postpartum women led to improved sleep quality, reduced sleep latency and improved functioning during the day. It can also enhance the quality of sleep in individuals with chronic heart failure (Naqadeh, 2017).

I, therefore, give the science of this strategy a 37/50.

Overall, using yoga or pilates as a strategy to sleep better gets a score of 18/25 + 17/25 + 37/50 =

72/100: Distinction

action adult athletic backlit

WHAT I RECOMMEND

Yoga and pilates both have a wide array of benefits for individuals who engage in these practices on a regular basis. If you haven’t tried them yet, and you struggle from pain, fatigue, reduced energy, depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress or sleep problems, give it a go for a month if you can, and see what type of difference it can make in your life.

Yoga and pilates are not the most recommended treatments for sleep difficulties or insomnia, but they can help by getting us to tune in and connect with what we feel in our body, which can lower our arousal levels and lead to better sleep at night.

For me, pilates using a reformer machine is fantastic, and yin yoga is super relaxing. Don’t be put off like I was when I was young. If you can go in with an open mind, there is a good chance that it could help you in some way.

Thanks for reading! If you would like a personalised sleep report and the five best things that you could do to best improve your sleep, please check out our services.

Could Sensory Deprivation Float Tanks Help Your Sleep?

The twenty-second variable that I will be manipulating across a two week period to examine their impact on sleep is float tanks. I will see if having two sensory deprivation floats in a week can have a substantial effect on sleep quality. 

I will discuss what my data shows, how easy or difficult I found this strategy to implement, and what previous research says. These three factors will be combined for an overall score and grade on how effective float sessions can be in improving sleep.

HOW COULD FLOAT TANKS IMPROVE SLEEP QUALITY?

Float tanks are a bit of a new health craze. My sister and her partner first bought me a float as a gift voucher for Christmas in 2015, which I used at the Elevation float centre in Hawthorn East in March 2016. Based on this first experience, I found it quite weird but also very relaxing, although I’m not sure if everyone with claustrophobia would agree with me.

On the elevation website, they state that floats can create relaxation, reduce pain, improve mood, increase focus and creativity, lower blood pressure, reduce stress and improve sleep. This may be due to the magnesium absorption from all the Epsom salts, or it could be the calming effect.

With how busy most people are these days, and how connected people are to the world with technology, taking an hour out to give the senses a rest and not be contactable by anyone could be a nice escape. I think if a float session does successfully reduce someone’s arousal levels, they could sleep better that night. What I’m not sure of is if these benefits can last beyond a day. I’m interested to find out.

THE EXPERIMENT

c01_jd_03jun_float2-640x480
Photo Courtesy of Sanjevani Integrative Medicine Health Lifestyle Center.

For the first week, I did no active intervention for my sleep and did not have any float sessions.

For the second week, I had two floats during the day. One on Sunday and one on Wednesday.

Let’s see if the two floats any impact on my sleep for the week…

THE OUTCOME

sleep diary episode 22 - float tank.jpg

Comparison: No float vs Float

Based on my sleep diary data, the findings were as follows:

  • The number of awakenings:
    1. Float – 1.14 per night
    2. No float – 1.43 per night
      • less is better
  • Time in bed:
    1. No float – 7 hours 29 minutes
    2. Float – 7 hours 07 minutes
      • 8 hours is ideal for me
  • Time to bed:
    1. No float – 11:00 pm
    2. No treatment – 9:39 pm
      • 11:30pm is ideal for me
  • Total sleep time:
    1. No float – 6 hours 50 minutes
    2. Float – 6 hours 26 minutes
      • 7 hours 30 minutes is ideal for me
  • Sleep onset latency:
    1. Float – 12.86 minutes
    2. No float – 14.29 minutes
      • quicker is better
  • Wake after sleep onset:
    1. No float – 24.29 minutes
    2. Float – 28.57 minutes
      • less is better
  • Rise time:
    1. No float – 6:29 am
    2. Float – 4:46 am
      • 7:30am is ideal for me
  • Sleep quality:
    1. Float – 3.86/5
    2. No float – 3.71/5
      • more is better
  • Sleep efficiency:
    1. No float – 91.41%
    2. Float – 90.30%
      • higher is better

AND THE WINNER IS…

With a count of 6 points to 3 points, the no treatment week was a generally better week of sleep than the week after I had two floats.

Similar to the massage experiment that I did, a float session seemed to help me feel more relaxed and sleep better than I otherwise would have that night. However, the improvements did not seem to carry over too much to the rest of the week.

A possible or likely confounding variable was that I flew to the USA on the Saturday morning of the second week and was more stressed trying to get everything ready for this trip. Just because the floats lost this time, does not mean that I think they are harmful to peoples sleep.

IS GETTING REGULAR SENSORY DEPRIVATION FLOATS A GOOD SLEEP STRATEGY?

I-sopod_Flotation_Tank

IS IT EFFECTIVE?

Not really. I definitely slept better on the night after my first float, and fell asleep earlier than usual, obtained 7 hours and 45 minutes of sleep and didn’t wake up at all. My next two nights weren’t good at all though, so unless you can afford to and want to book in floats very regularly, it’s not a very effective long-term strategy for improving your sleep.

I, therefore, give the effectiveness of this strategy a 12/25.

CAN IT BE APPLIED?

It can, but it would be expensive and not very practical. It also wouldn’t be great for people that don’t like confined spaces. I don’t even know if it healthy to be exposed to that much Epsom salts on a regular basis either, but if you are doing it occasionally I think it’s okay.

I, therefore, give the applicability of this strategy an 8/25. 

IS IT SCIENTIFIC?

In 1994, Schulz and Kaspar found that a 60-minute float didn’t change hormonal concentrations, but it did increase subjective levels of euphoria and relaxation in comparison to 60-minutes of lying on a bed.

 

I couldn’t find anything on sleep in particular, but a 2018 study by Feinstein and colleagues found that a 60-minute float-REST session produced significant reductions from before the session to after it in anxiety, stress, pain, muscle tension and depression in 50 participants with diagnosed anxiety (46 who also had depression). They also found increases in feelings of relaxation, serenity, happiness and overall well-being. However, these symptoms were not reassessed again later in the day, before bed, or on subsequent days, indicating that the improvements may only be transitory (Feinstein et al., 2018).

I, therefore, give the science of this strategy a 25/50.

Overall, getting regular sensory deprivation floats as a way to consistently improve your sleep gets a score of 12/25 + 8/25 + 25/50 =

45/100: Fail

man and woman swimming in the sea near brown cliff

WHAT I RECOMMEND

If you want to try a few float sessions, go for it. The amount of things that it can potentially help with means that they are worth a try. I didn’t notice any long-term benefits, but that doesn’t mean that there won’t be any for you.

If it is summer and you want to float, head down to the beach. If you can do this in the morning and with friends, you get the benefits of vitamin D, the salt from the ocean and the benefits of disconnecting from technology and socialising with your friends. It’s also more physically active than a float tank, which is good for your health too.

If you are low in magnesium, health foods provide magnesium sprays and tablets, and you could even run your own bath with some Epsom salts in it.

If you need to cut down your screen time, try the mobile app ‘Moment’ or the computer plug-in ‘Freedom’.

If you want to learn how to switch off and calm your mind, learn some various strategies to wind down and relax, from meditation to deep breathing and progressive muscle relaxation. Writing down your thoughts and plans can also help.

Thanks for reading! If you would like a personalised sleep report and the five best things that you could do to best improve your sleep, please check out our services.