Sleep deprivation killing creativity at work, say neuroscientists

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Lack of sleep causes startups to fail, makes problem solving harder and damages creativity, according to neuroscientists speaking today at the NeuroLeadership Institute’s annual summit. They revealed that one in four people struggle to concentrate at work due to tiredness and advised business leaders, entrepreneurs and creative professionals to prioritise sleep and even nap during the working day in order to improve mental resilience and problem solving.

Speaking in a session on Insight and Creativity, Drs Jacqui Grey and Jessica Payne shared new research on how the human brain solves problems and generates new ideas with delegates, and encouraged business leaders and HR professionals to make space for rest and reflection in the workplace.

Dr Jacqui Grey, MD for the NeuroLeadership Institute Europe, comments: “The Mad Men stereotype of boozy lunches and afternoon naps may not apply to most creative people today, but there is some method in the madness that businesses can take on board. Sleep deprivation kills creativity, it sinks startups every day and is a problem at most large creative organisations that ask us for help.”

“Creativity needs a rested mind if it is to flourish. Sleep improves memory and helps us make connections. Taking a 20 minute nap or simply going offline for a short period of time each day provides the brain with vital breathing space and time to reinterpret problems. Thinking too hard about a problem can make it harder to solve and it is often better to let the mind wander and allow the brain’s unconscious processors to take over.”

Dr Jessica Payne, Head of Notre Dame’s Sleep, Stress and Memory Research Lab, comments: “While a boozy lunch on work time is no longer acceptable, neuroscience shows that it is probably safer to be drunk than sleep impaired once you hit a certain level. Tiredness has played a factor in many major disasters over recent decades and continues to kill many thousands of people each year.”

“Sleep deprivation is bad for businesses. It kills startups and and can be particularly damaging to organisations that rely on selling creative services for a living. Consistently burning the midnight oil can trigger a downward spiral in mental health and business performance.”

“Getting enough sleep is vital if people are to perform to the highest level and research consistently shows that too many people aren’t getting enough. The majority of people cannot get by on just four or five hours of sleep a night, we need to be getting closer to eight.”


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