When we are tired, we tend to make bad, and sometimes plain dumb, decisions. Researchers have told us to stay away from online shopping, junk food eating and driving when we are sleep deprived, but a new study says this fatigue actually makes us better problem solvers.
There are two types of problems. The first is analytical, such as mathematical problems, that have one right answer. Then there are insight-based problems, which require a bit of creative thinking to come up with a solution. Albion University researchers studied almost 500 students and found that analytical problems require you to be mentally sharp. However, the students that were tired did better with insightful problems -- in fact they performed 20% better than those who were well-rested.
It turns out that when you are tired, you start to let go of you inhibitions, which makes you more willing to look at a situation from a different perspective. Also, your brain tends to wander a lot more when you are tired, which can also help make you think creatively.
"You're having other random thoughts, like 'I had a fight this morning,' or 'I have to pick up milk.' That random thought can combine with your main thought and come up with something creative," Mareike Wieth, PhD, an assistant professor of psychology and lead author of the study, told The Atlantic. "At your optimal time of day, you're not going to have that random thought."
Weith suggests utilizing this by turning around your natural schedule. So, if you are naturally a morning person, tackle one insight-based problem at night. If you are naturally a night owl, try doing the same in the morning. This will force you to think outside the box and consider solutions that never would have crossed your mind before.