Research has shown that sleep plays an important role in developing creative thinking and problem-solving.
During REM sleep (the stage of sleep where most dreams occur) people’s brains are as active as when they are awake, and this time is crucial for consolidating memories. Not getting enough REM sleep is detrimental to learning, with one study showing a lack of sleep can lead to a reduction in cell growth and division in the part of the brain responsible for long-term memory.
Lucid dreaming is a state where people can control their dreams. More than half of people have experienced this at least once in their life – while 23% experience this state more than once per month. While dreams (and their purpose) remain largely a mystery, there is evidence to suggest that lucid dreaming can aid problem-solving and overcoming creative challenges.
Though the reasons for this are unclear, one theory proposes that the brain can visualise a problem, but simultaneously has the freedom to take a less logical or rational approach to solving it. This means that lucid dreaming can help people come up with solutions they might otherwise have missed.
While thoughts and feelings undeniably affect the quality of sleep, the opposite is also true. Sleep and mental wellbeing are interconnected, and if workplace stress is inhibiting your creativity, then a better night’s rest may help. Multiple studies have shown the relationship between sleep and the amygdala: the area of the brain that processes emotions. Research suggests that sleep helps regulate this and can change people’s perspective and feelings towards a situation.
Hypnagogia happens at the onset of sleep and denotes a half-conscious, half-dream state between wakefulness and sleep. During this period, people experience hallucinations where they see, hear or feel things that aren’t there. Some of the world’s most creative people have reported the influence of hypnagogia, with Dali, Beethoven and Edison all making references to the way hypnagogic hallucinations encouraged abstract thinking.
In the UK, around a third of people have experienced hypnagogia at least once, with hallucinations ranging from simple shapes and colours, to seeing people or animals.
It is always difficult it is to stay on task after a bad night’s sleep – mainly thanks to something called adenosine. Adenosine is the chemical that makes people feel sleepy. This chemical builds throughout the day and decreases throughout the night. A lack of sleep means adenosine levels remain high, meaning people feel less alert and find it more difficult to stay focused. Conversely, a lower level of adenosine will make employees feel more ‘awake’ and ready to generate new ideas or tackle work problems.
As a company that values imagination and creative thinking, Aquarium really values the power of rest in helping our people maximise their potential.