History is peppered with tales of phenomenal ideas taking shape in sleeping minds; Paul McCartney said that he awoke with the tune of Yesterday in his head, and Robert Louis Stevenson said that the idea for The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde came to him in a dream.
But what exactly is going on in our minds while we sleep? Does slumber really prompt creative genius? And can the most uncreative of people receive flashes of inspiration once their head hits the pillow?
Scientists believe that the mind at night weaves together bits of information in innovative ways. Throughout the day your brain rarely gets a chance to stop and think.
In a state of constant alertness, it responds to a stream of challenges, from writing a report for a work deadline to remembering where you left your car keys and figuring out what to buy for dinner.
How to be inspired
Lack of sleep kills creativity
According to Professor Foster, a good night’s sleep increases the likelihood of developing novel solutions to problems. If your grey matter won’t produce a solution to a vexing problem – sleep on it.
Go to bed early
One study suggests that the most creative part of our sleeping occurs in the first half of the night, during slow-wave sleep. So if you need an answer to a solution and are short on time, it’s best to go to bed early and get up early, rather than to stay up late.
Mull over a problem before you go to bed
Try to direct your creative powers by thinking about the problem you want to solve, but don’t fret over it – you won’t be able to sleep.
Photo by kuypers.