Creativity and the importance of good sleep
What is the easiest way to boost your creativity? Get some good sleep.
No, really. And science is compiling evidence to support your need for that sleep. Increasingly science is discovering that the old adage of dealing with a problem by “just sleeping on it” has some basis in fact.
The German study
The international weekly journal of science Nature reported back in 2004 that German scientists had demonstrated for the first time that our sleeping brains continue working on problems that baffle us during the day.
Scientists at the University of Luebeck found that volunteers taking a simple math test were three times more likely than sleep-deprived participants to figure out a hidden rule for converting the numbers into the right answer if they had eight hours of sleep.
The German study is considered to be the first hard evidence supporting the common sense notion that creativity and problem solving appear to be directly linked to adequate sleep, scientists say.
Last year the New York Times reported on sleep benefits that included creativity in “We’ll Fill This Space, but First a Nap”(Sept. 27, 2008). A key finding reported in the story: “Sleep assists the brain in flagging unrelated ideas and memories, forging connections among them that increase the odds that a creative idea or insight will surface.”
Now, the findings of a large self-reporting study by the East of England Development Agency in 2008 which polled hundreds of workers only to discover that most creativity, most new ideas, come to workers, not in the workplace, but in a more relaxing environment, usually as they sleep.
Psychology Professor Richard Wiseman of the Perrott-Warrick Research Unit at the University of Hertfordshire, England, says, "In our dreams we produce unusual combinations of ideas that can seem surreal, but every once in a while result in an amazingly creative solution to an important problem." He suggests that businesses start taking a more relaxed approach to creativity if they want to get the most from their employees.
Writing in Alternative Health Journal last year, Editor Bob Condor says a Harvard researcher, Jeffrey Ellenbogen, discovered that getting enough sleep can lead to brilliant discoveries. In Snooze To Be More Creative he writes that Ellenbogen found that good sleep b y team members during “incubation” phases of work projects leads to 33 percent increase in the likelihood that people will “infer connections among distantly related ideas” that turn out to be nothing short of brilliant or ingenious. Dr. Ellenbogen says this creativity performance enhancement seems to exist “completely beneath the radar screen.”
Researchers believe that the reason for the improved performance of people who get good sleep – in other words sleeping on a problem – is that they give time to their brains to restructure memories.
Still need convincing?
Among famous fans of sleep and the creative ideas it can bring have been composer Richard Wagner, artist Salvador Dali and possibly the 20th Century’s greatest thinker, Albert Einstein. In more contemporary times Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards has said the riff in "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" came to him as he slept.
We all spend – or should spend -- about a third of our lives asleep. Rather than viewing that as unproductive time perhaps we should consider it just another state of thinking – a very creative state.
Goodnight all. I’m off to do my most creative thinking!
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