03 May Not only relaxing and creating but sleeping and creating
This site is all about relaxing and creating, so I was pleased to find an article on how sleeping on an idea could yield even more creative results! Over a decade ago scientists gave a group of people a complex math problem to solve, but for those who thought most creatively, there was a hidden shortcut to the solution. Half the group were asked to sit and try to solve the problem, while the other half were told to sleep on it. To their surprise, only 20% of those who tried to solve it found the short cut, while 59% of those who slept on the problem found it. The study concluded that sleep ‘facilitates…insightful behavior’.
This study was by no means the first to see how sleep and dreaming could help with creative thinking. It had already been established that we continue to process what we have been thinking about during the day as we sleep, but the extent of this has been much debated. In the 1990s a group of college students were asked to focus on a problem they already had, then to try to solve it in their sleep. Some chose homework questions, and other chose life problems. They were all asked to focus on this problem each night before going to bed. after week, 50% of the group reported having dreamed about their problem, and a full 25% of the students reported having found a solution.
The idea is that as we sleep our minds keep playing out scenarios from our day. We look for alternative solutions and try to understand what happened to us, and hypothesize about what might happen. It is thought that during sleep are minds are still happily going about their work of making sense of the world. In amongst, they also come up with some amazing ideas – though it appears on 25% of the time when we need them!
It is also known that we come up with ideas when we are most relaxed. It is thought that many great ideas come to mind when the person is rested or focused on something else. As a choral singer I love the story of Arthur Fry who came up with the idea of Post-It notes while singing in the choir. We have all experienced the frustration of being up against a deadline and ideas completely avoiding us, so can attest to the need for rest to think best.
And now it seems that rest is good, but sleep is even better for us for coming up with new ideas. Maybe instead of focusing on relaxing and creating I should rename this site ‘Sleep and Create’?