Robert Louis Stevenson came up with the plot for the Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde during a dream.
Paul McCartney discovered the tune for his hit song “Yesterday” in a dream.
Mary Shelley’s dream at Lord Byron’s villa inspired her Gothic tale, Frankenstein.
Dreams have always been a powerful creative tool in artist’s arsenal. And studies confirming the importance of sleep to our long-term health continue to pour out: They’ve determined that our neurons fire almost as often when we’re sleeping as they do when we’re awake. But here are a few findings about sleep and creativity that may surprise and stimulate you:
There’s growing evidence that our minds tend to be most creative just as we are emerging from sleep: During the half-waking, half-dreaming state known as “sleep inertia,” our creativity seems to surge. This is why coming up with ideas and writing them down as soon as we wake is a proven technique for enhancing creativity that’s been used by everyone from writers and poets to Ben Franklin.
The theory behind this: When we’re in a post-sleep, dream-like mental state, we can bridge the gap between sleep and wakefulness, and bring insights and inspiration from our sleep state into our consciousness. Once we’re fully alert, our waking consciousness assumes total control, making plans and doing things — and we pass out of the more fluid, expansive state we enjoy when we’re just emerging from our rest.
Sleep can also be a powerful creativity booster because the mind, in an unconscious resting state, can forge surprising and innovative new connections that it might not make in a conscious, waking state. In fact, a study by the University of California at Berkeley found that sleep can foster “remote associates” or unusual connections in the brain. And these connections can lead to exciting “a-Ha” moments upon waking. According to the study, upon emerging from sleep, people are 33 percent more like to make connections between ideas that seem only distantly related.
So why not test this all out and give your creativity a helping hand by having a paper and pen by your bedside, so you can jot down any hot ideas before they slip away? Write on!