Would you believe it if I said I dreamt it? Since I’ve joined ad school, my mind has been on fire and some days I feel like I’m working even in my sleep. I first heard it from the well renowned Alexandra Taylor, who said she would wake up and write her thoughts down if they came to her during sleep. The first time this happened to me, I woke up feeling like I had solved a puzzle and a strange sense of accomplishment. I saw images, words, SMPs or even full case study videos. Sometimes I struggled to recollect them and a lot of the times they weren’t a good answer to the brief. Nevertheless, I have dreamt several creative ideas throughout the year, so decided to look into how sleep connects with creativity.

Turns out there is a history of innovations and pieces of art that have been born from this very phenomenon. Sleep is defined as a state of the body and mind when there is reduced sensory activity to a ‘certain’ extent. Pretty vague right! This is because sleep has several cycles and some parts of it have a deeper mode than the others. So here are some basics, without getting too techy:

  • We sleep in an average of 90 minute sleep cycles
  • Each cycle will have two parts: 1) The first part is non-REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep, and 2) The second part is REM sleep
  • The non-REM sleep is when we go into deep slumber
  • REM is when the brain waves are similar to being awake and this is when we dream

In a world outside SCA, humans need four to six cycles of sleep every twenty-four hours. Deep sleep is the state when we build knowledge which forms the foundations of what we know. REM sleep is where the magic happens. Neuroscientist Matthew Walker calls it informational alchemy. The mind tries to connect dots with our long lost memories stored in the nooks and crannies of our brain. It’s these connections that springs creativity.

During the day, when we are trying to connect dots, it is as if we are on the first page of results that a Google search has returned, while in REM sleep, it is as if we have landed on the 20th page. In a recent study, it was found that the brain enters this hypnotic state in the early stages of sleep. Participants were given objects to hold, that would drop and wake them up, just before they fell into deep sleep. If the participants didn’t wake up and fell into deeper sleep instead, then they would forget the dream inspired insights. So tonight I’m going to sleep with Adobe all loaded up, let see what happens 😉

Edison took naps throughout the day with bearings attached to his hands to wake himself up with inspiration. Talk about sleeping on a problem, eh. I always thought Salvador Dali’s works looked a bit trippy, turns out he used this technique too. The opening riff of the catchy Rolling Stones ‘Satisfaction’ was born in the early morning hours of the dreamy Keith Richards brain. Paul McCartney also claims that he dreamt the melody of ‘Yesterday’ in his dream. He woke up to find the key he dreamt in and played it on his piano.

Sounds like fantasy, but there is logic to this. When the brain is overdosed with lots of information that it fails to analyse during the day, it starts to use up the quiet times of the night to do it. Though it feels like there are better insights to be had this way, it isn’t considered to be a good thing to overcrowd the mind. Scientists say that we could recreate this experience by allowing our brains free time during the day. So, taking breaks, meditating or simply letting ourselves be bored, can help us in building a great Portfolio.


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