Breaking: Getting Drunk and Losing Sleep are Good for Creativity

Artist "William Powhida" getting drunk at Marlborough Gallery in Chelsea.
Artist "William Powhida" getting drunk at Marlborough Gallery in Chelsea. (photo by Hrag Vartanian for Hyperallergic)

LOS ANGELES — I know a lot of artists who get drunk a lot. I know a lot of artists who are sleepy half the time. It just so happens that these artists are also very creative.

Two new studies, as reported in Wired, say good ol’ science backs up this observation.  Here’s the first one:

When people were tested during their “least optimal time of day” — think of that night owl stumbling into the lab in the early morning — they were significantly more effective at solving insight puzzles … Performance on the analytic problems, meanwhile, was unaffected by the clock.

Nicolas de Lacy-Brown, "Hombre con Vino" (2004) (via delacy-brown.com)

But then there’s another study out of the University of Illinois with the terrific title of “Uncorking the muse: Alcohol intoxication facilitates creative problem solving.” Students with a blood alcohol level of at least 0.075 were more successful at solving creative problems. That’s less than one drink for most people, two at most.

This is good news for hard-partying, insomniac artists itching for a creative breakthrough. Apparently, the reason sleepiness and intoxication are so good for creativity is because they lead to a decreased ability to concentrate. That lack of concentration in turn leads to greater free association, so the brain is more likely to come up with novel solutions and connections.

But what about us poor artists in Los Angeles, where we have to remain alert and awake while driving? Fortunately, another Wired article hints at a solution: self-driving cars are just around the bend.


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