Sleep is good for us in all kinds of ways. And while there is an outdated view that it simply provides our body with a period to recharge ourselves, there is growing evidence that sleep can help creativity. Here we explore how sleep and creativity are linked, ranging from increased brainpower to how routines help us become more creative. We even look into how a certain, world best-selling author uses sleep to maximise his creative flow.
1. Pattern recognition
The phenomenon attributed to sleep by scientists as ‘pattern recognition’ dictates that REM sleep is beneficial to the creative process. A study has shown that this stage of sleep helps the brain connect unrelated ideas, which in turn aids creative problem-solving.
2. Creativity boost of sleep routines
A regular sleeping pattern has many benefits to your life, including better health, mood and weight control. Encouraging a regular healthy nights’ sleep will also help you think more clearly and aid memory, making creativity come more easily.
3. Memorising ideas and inspiration
Dreams work to connect experiences and are evidence of our brain trying to make sense of thoughts and memories. However nonsensical they seem, dreams can be beneficial in cementing experiences into our memory, and can often prove inspirational. This is not surprising, as the act of creating art itself can often be an effort to connect seemingly unrelated thoughts and experiences.
4. Lucid dreaming
The practice of being conscious of the dreams you are experiencing (while being unconscious), known as lucid dreaming, helps creativity, in that you can explore new possibilities without the usual governing rules of reality.
You can encourage lucid dreaming by taking a couple of steps:
- Constantly asking yourself in your waking moments whether you are dreaming.
- Making an effort to remember a dream if you wake during the night.
5. Using the hypnopompic state
The period of coming out of sleep is known as the hypnopompic state. In this state, our brain is usually rich with imagery from the dreams we have experienced during REM sleep. Conversely, the period leading into sleep was used by surrealist painter Salvador Dali as he captured images from his hypnagogic state, by waking himself up with a key held over a metal plate, which would fall from his grasp as he slipped from consciousness.
6. Finding solutions
A neurologist at Harvard Medical School found that REM sleep helps people come up with creative solutions to problems. This is likely to be as a result of the connections made in dreams, and adds credence to the popular piece of advice to ‘sleep on a problem’.
7. Engaging the wakeful mind
In his book on writing, A Memoir of the Craft, author Stephen King promotes the virtues of what he calls ‘creative sleep’. King says that a regular sleep pattern can encourage our wakeful minds to unlock the similarly creative imaginations we access in our sleep:
‘…as your mind and body grow accustomed to a certain amount of sleep each night – six hours, seven, maybe the recommended eight – you can train your waking mind to sleep creatively, and work out vividly imagined waking dreams, which are successful works of fiction.’