Sleep experts always extol the benefits of maintaining a regular sleep schedule, but a new study says that erratic sleep patterns could make you less creative and alert.

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Researchers at Baylor University looked at the sleep habits of 28 interior design students, who often pull all-nighters finishing projects. The team tracked sleep patterns using wristbands that measured movement and sleep diaries filled out by students. Then, participants completed two cognitive tests that focused on creativity and attention, which were given at the same time on the first and last day of the study.

Irregular sleep patterns had a negative impact on what the researchers call executive attention, which is the high level of focus required for planning, making decisions, correcting errors and dealing with novelty. The fluctuating sleep patterns of students also decreased creativity, which goes against the common belief that good ideas come in the middle of the night.

"The more variability they showed in their night-to-night sleep, the worse their cognition declined across the week," said study co-author Michael Scullin, Ph.D., in a statement.

Out of the 28 students, only one reported sleeping seven hours or more each night and about 79 percent slept less than seven hours at least three nights a week.

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According to Stanford University, college students need at least eight hours of sleep. As this study shows, many college students, like those in the interior design program, often don’t log enough hours each night. Aside from hindering cognitive function, lack of sleep can cause accidents and errors in your daily work. Previous studies have shown that those who don’t get enough sleep are at an increased risk for heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke and diabetes.

The main takeaway? Shut off the TV, go to bed early and stick to a consistent sleep schedule if you want to live a longer, more productive and creative life.

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