Amid today’s obsession with busy-ness and productivity, many neglect an important ingredient to creative execution: sleep.  Creative leaders such as Arianna Huffington are now advocating that artists take more time to renew their fuel in order to preserve their well-being. Yet there may be an even more practical reason to sleep. Time senior editor Jeffrey Kluger writes:

We’ve all slept on a problem and had it sort itself out by morning. But that’s only a small part of what the brain on nighttime autopilot can do. Paul McCartney famously said that he came up with the melody for “Yesterday” in a dream; Elias Howe, the inventor of the sewing machine, is said to have solved the problem of the machine’s needle when he dreamed of an attack by warriors carrying spears with holes in the tips.

If you’re wrestling with a problem, prime your brain before you’re about to hit the hay:

Barrett’s studies suggest that engaging in some type of pre-bedtime priming—contemplating a problem you’d like to solve—increases the likelihood that sleep will bring some answers. Up to a third of the subjects in her sample group reported that priming had helped them find a solution that had eluded them during the day.

  • JoThomas

    “…he dreamed of an attack by warriors carrying spears with holes in the tips”, the source of creativity – someplace inside us knows but our conscious self is yet to find it. Such an interesting anecdote, thank you for finding it and putting it here.

    • Herbert Lui

      Glad I could help, JoThomas!

  • Katherine Raz

    I think McCartney woke up signing “scrambled eggs.” During the course of his day he changed that to “yesterday.” True story! (I think.)

    • Herbert Lui

      Haha, I can imagine that happening. Thanks for sharing, Katherine.

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