Some of the world’s most successful people will tell you one thing: sleep is a priority—and they are clearly on to something. Research has long shown that sleep helps your memory and learning. But there’s more. Creative breakthroughs usually happen after lots of pondering and sleeping on the issue. To guide your mind to that breakthrough, John Kounios and Mark Beeman, authors of The Eureka Factor: Aha Moments, Creative Insight, and the Brain have a few suggestions.
In their new work, the sleep experts give tips ranging from strategizing to the times you address problems to scheduling naps to refresh before tackling an issue. Basically, #teamnosleep doesn’t apply here. There’s lots of research to support why this technique works. Spacing out your studying and creative process across days versus cramming during late nights is more effective because memories are solidified and strengthened during sleep. This happens during the sleep phase Slow Wave Sleep (SWS). Researchers believe that SWS interacts with the Random Eye Movement (REM) phase to promote creativity.
It’s a detailed process. SWS takes the gist of recent experiences and builds on your general knowledge base. REM spontaneously replays various memories from your cortex. The brain detects connections between old memories and new knowledge, then selects relatable older memories to replay in the REM phase of sleep. Throughout a night’s sleep the brain experiences multiple SWS and REM cycles, each building the connections of new knowledge and memories to prime the mind for a mental leap when awake.
Great ideas need time to be nurtured, so don’t expect them to come overnight from just one night’s sleep. Taking space between attempts and sleeping on ideas over time is an integral part of success.