ADHD, Creativity, & Sleep

One important concept that I propose in my book is the idea that mild sleep deprivation due to any cause (but especially from mild sleep-breathing problems) can promote creativity. This hypothesis was recently supported by a study that showed that college students that had ADHD had more creative achievements than students without ADHD. If you accept my sleep-breathing paradigm’s prediction that poor sleep can lead to symptoms of ADHD, then it’s also likely that your nervous system will be overly activated. This leads to heightened senses and emotions, enhancing creativity or even intuition. In fact, numerous studies have shown that a significant percentage of children with ADHD on medications actually have a treatable sleep-breathing disorder.

People with upper airway resistance syndrome (UARS) are more likely to fit this picture, since they are never able to achieve quality deep sleep on a consistent basis. Since by definition, this causes a low-grade physiologic stress response, your nervous system is gong to be en garde, edgy, hypersensitive or over-reactive. Even your sense of smell, hearing, vision, or taste can be affected. This is why many people come through during intense times of stress, such as trying to meet a major deadline, or during a major performance.

People with UARS can have apneas or hypopneas, but most of their breathing pauses are too short or subtle to be reported on a sleep study. Many do move up the continuum into sleep apnea territory later in life, especially as they gain weight. Notice that parents of people with ADHD almost always have obstructive sleep apnea.

Problems happen when your sleep quality gets much worse, and then your heightened senses become overly sensitive, where even common smells, sounds or weather changes can bother you. Even mildly irritating situations can lead into major panic attacks or emotional outbursts.

Notice also that most of the creative luminaries in history have or had major sleep problems. Perhaps this is why it’s sometimes difficult to tell the difference between pure genius and sheer madness.

Come to think of it, I did come up with this concept during my book writing process after a few nights of mild sleep deprivation :)

What’s your take on my hypothesis?


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