Sleep Your Way to a More Creative Life

The phrase “let’s sleep on it” might actually have significance – other than helping you end a long meeting.

Neuroscientists believe that while you’re sleeping, you continue to work through ideas that were planted in your mind when you were awake. So essentially, you can keep creating cool stuff while your body gets its beauty rest. Ahh. I love the sound of that.

There’s a particular type of sleep that’s most beneficial for our creativity, too. According to this study, REM sleep helps the brain connect unrelated ideas, which in turn helps our creative problem-solving.

Fun facts about REM sleep:

  • What does it do? This type of sleep increases brain activity, promotes learning, and creates dreams.
  • When does it happen? It takes place after you’ve been sleeping for around 90 minutes.
  • How long does it last? The first cycle lasts about 10 minutes, and the length of each cycle increases with time. It can last up to a full hour in the phase right before you wake up. Basically, the longer you can sleep, the more REM you’ll get!
  • How does it affect us? According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, a study depriving rats of REM sleep significantly shortened their life span, from two or three years to five weeks. (Yikes! So a deep sleep might even help you live longer?)

During the REM phase, when you’re in a dream state, your brain is busy making sense of your thoughts, memories and experiences. And these connections often prove inspirational. Steve Jobs was noted for saying, “creativity is just connecting things.” And we can definitely do this in our sleep.

In order to capitalize on your dreams, keep a notebook by your bed. As soon as you wake up, write down any thoughts that come to mind – even if they seem nonsensical at the time. They will be ideas worth mining!

In addition to dreaming, it’s important to get a regular amount of sleep each night. By establishing how much sleep you need (for me it’s 8 hrs) and sticking to a routine, you’ll create a rhythm for your body. A rhythm that will help you think more clearly, aid your memory and make creativity flow more freely the next day.

Author Stephen King King believes a regular sleep pattern encourages our wakeful minds to unlock the similarly creative imaginations we access in our sleep. He said, “as your mind and body grow accustomed to a certain amount of sleep each night, you can train your waking mind to sleep creatively, and work out vividly imagined waking dreams, which are successful works of fiction.”

Whoa. Coming from a master of mysterious, bone-chilling novels, I’d say he’s on to something. That dude has quite an imagination.

So as you begin to work on your next creative project, seriously consider “sleeping on it!” And then take notes the next day.

Before you lull into a creative slumber, though, I’ll leave you with some of my favorite quotes about sleeping. >>

XoXo,

-Kate

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