For over a hundred years, scientists have determined that getting a good night’s sleep can contribute to mental alertness, clarity and even creativity. A new theory out of Cardiff University may have the secrets to how better sleep leads to greater imagination and problem solving. If you are looking for enhanced creativity and ingenuity, the answer just might lie in your sleep quality.
Processing the Day
Whether you sleep on a down-filled comforter or in the safe confines of a cardboard bed, the activity that happens in your brain is likely the same. The theory proposes that the light REM sleep that makes up most of our nightly slumber is actually a part of the brain’s analytical capabilities. Through this period, our brains process all the events of the day and try to make sense of them.
It spends the time sorting through the various specific memories and putting the parts the brain considers important into long-term storage. This analysis period is only the first part of the puzzle, but it goes a long way towards explaining why some people just seem more creative and intuitive than others.
Making the Pieces Fit
Deep REM sleep, which takes up much less of the night, is when the brain attempts to draw generalities from those specific events, according to the theory. The brain may then attempt to use those generalities to understand other problems that occupy the dreamer’s mind. For example, attending a concert may give the dreamer specific sights and sounds. The deep REM period then takes the patterns found in those sights and sounds and applies them to other areas requiring problem-solving abilities.
These areas can include everything from how to communicate specific ideas effectively to how to power through crafting a tricky scene in a book. The brain may spend this time to create song lyrics or even conceptualize abstract ideas such as medical concepts or geophysics. All of the concerns, questions and thoughts that normally occupy the dreamer’s mind become fodder for this process nightly.
Getting a Better Night’s Sleep
What this means for the everyday person is that you can more easily tackle the many problems of your day-to-day life creatively and effectively if you get a good night’s rest and prohibit interruptions to these two sleep phases, according to the researchers at Cardiff University. The sleep experts at Snore Nation note that roughly 42 percent of sleepers report poor or fair sleep at night, which is enough to negatively affect concentration and emotional responses, leading to irritability and likely drowning out creative solutions.
The answer seems to be to de-stress before bed, allow plenty of time to sleep and let those creative juices flow. Removing stress from the bedroom may mean everything from unplugging for digital detox to sleeping at different times than your snoring partner. Try to mix up your pattern and see what results you get. Do you feel more creative after a good night’s sleep? Are you more able to tackle the day’s problems without extra stress or irritability? If so, you may be living proof of the researcher’s hypothesis and one more advocate of getting the best possible rest each night.