According to the National Sleep Foundation, more than 50 percent of adults in the U.S. report insomnia symptoms at least a few nights a week. As any insomniac will tell you, a night of tossing and turning feels isolating and more than a bit hopeless. You're lying there, awake, knowing you should be asleep and you need sleep. But while the detrimental effects of lack of sleep are well-documented, the occasional bout of insomnia does have its benefits. If you accept that you may be up all night, you'll realize there are small, quiet perks to being awake while the rest of the world snores. We're not saying we should pretend insomnia isn't a debilitating disorder — it certainly is. We're saying that one night of sleeplessness comes with a few, small plusses. It's all a matter of perspective.
1. It May Enhance Creativity
From Proust to Coldplay, artists have long claimed that bouts of insomnia spur their creativity. The additional time others spend sleeping could provide uninterrupted periods of productivity. Studies have even linked insomnia and creativity directly. In 2013, researchers concluded that insomnia had a small and positive effect on divergent thinking (generating creative ideas by exploring many possible solutions). A 2006 study involving children found that the majority of creative people have sleeping difficulties. This might indicate that the mental unrest experienced by creative people causes their sleeplessness. While cause and effect is still undetermined, there is a more than a casual relationship between the two.
2. It Puts You in Good Company
Getting by on just a few hours of sleep a night? Join the club. Famous insomniacs include Margaret Thatcher, Bill Clinton, Charles Dickens, Marcel Proust and Madonna. These people may tell you that their best thinking happens at night — thinking that could either prevent their sleep or jolt them awake with a “eureka!” Groucho Marx, who suffered from insomnia after losing a fortune in the stock market crash, would avoid late-night boredom by calling strangers to insult them and writing jokes like, “What do you get when you cross an insomniac, an agnostic and a dyslexic? Someone who stays up all night wondering if there is a dog.” Exceptional achievers often cite lack of sleep as a symptom of their success, likely coupled with high motivation and ambition.
3. It Can Be Wildly Productive
Once you accept that insomnia might be inevitable for the night, you can address lingering things on your to-do list or finish that novel. Sleep experts will tell you not to spend more than 15 minutes awake in bed trying to fall asleep to avoid the risk of associating your sleep environment with wakefulness (in the sleep-world, this is called stimulus control). Instead, try going into another room and doing something that reduces your stress — such as reading that book on beating procrastination you’ve been putting off.
4. You Can Experience Some Small Joys
Screw sunsets — the sun rising over the horizon is where nature really shines. This and other joys of alone time are waiting to be experienced, all while most people are in bed. Take a long walk at night and enjoy the sweet, sweet silence, or take up position by the window and wait for the new day to break. Who's ever regretted seeing the sunrise?
5. It’s a Good Opportunity to Find Your Center
You’re up, anyway: Might as well stop fighting the insomnia and start accepting it. Mindfulness meditation is based on meditation techniques that are used in Buddhism to help increase mental focus and improve moment-to-moment awareness of thoughts and experience. It can help focus the mind and decrease stress and, conversely, can be a useful sleep-conjuring technique. Studies have shown that mindfulness meditation decreases insomnia, fatigue and depression — and it may even be as restorative as stage IV sleep.
6. Television is Way Better
Okay, you’re not supposed to watch TV because of the whole blue light thing. But, well, what are rules if not for breaking? And flipping through TV at night is much better than during the day. Why? Technically a cable channel doesn't have to censor itself at all, but your average viewer expects a certain level of FCC-standard cleanliness during daytime broadcasts. At night, though, the earmuffs come off and the F-Bombs can fly. Enjoy watching that uncut version of “Goodfellas” or stand-up sets on Comedy Central anytime between 10 pm. and 6 am.
7. It’s Prime Time to Learn Something New
A recent study reported that people with chronic insomnia outperformed regular sleepers when learning simple new tasks, an indicator of superior neuroplasticity — the brain’s ability to adapt and change. Consider putting your enhanced brain activity to use by picking up a new musical instrument. Maybe the drums?