There’s a common phrase that’s used when people are searching for creative answers: "Let’s sleep on it." A new study that was summarized in the New York Times shows that this is literally true. By sleeping more, we now know that you’ll be more creative. However, this study revealed that the type of sleep stage was more important than the length of time in sleep. In particular, researchers found that napping which included time in REM sleep lead to significantly better in word association test scores. REM sleep (rapid eye movement) is the sleep stage when you’re dreaming.
Although napping without REM sleep resulted in slightly better test scores, naps that included REM sleep resulted in close to a 40% improvement over pre-nap scores.
This study is interesting in that we know that most of our REM sleep is in the second 1/2 of the night. If you’re only getting the bare minimum 5 hours, you’ll get enough of the non-REM deep sleep stage, but you’re probably missing out on most of your REM time.
Plus, if you have a sleep-breathing problem, REM sleep is most commonly the time when you’re most likely to stop breathing and wake up. This will prevent you from staying in REM sleep, and more likely to have strange dreams or nightmares (since you’re waking up while dreaming).
Even more reason to prioritize your sleep time.