There’s no mystery to the fact that hard work usually pays off with good things. Even Samuel Goldwyn said, “The harder I work, the luckier I get.” I believe this translates into many things in our daily lives, not just our work. The flip side of that is overdoing it, losing sleep, and for me and many other creatives, not enough breaks in the day or work week, resulting in burn out and a lack of “ah ha” moments. If you’re like me, I will sometimes work so hard, so late, that even the greatest or simplest idea or solution seems just out of reach; but some how, as if by magic, if I let go and get to bed, the answer is usually revealed in the morning. Okay, so it’s not magic, but more a function of the cognitive unconscious that allows us to tap that creative storehouse.
So how does sleep work to help us unlock that creative vault? It’s pretty simple; dreaming and rest for the brain allow processes to occur that cannot when we’re in our day to day functions. Think about it: How many tasks and events over the course of a day interrupt, distract, and otherwise require the attention of our mind? Probably thousands. We multitask, talk, type, write, and work the day away, each step asking more of our mind and memory. That’s a normal day, but the brain needs rest. In Leslie Berlin’s article, We’ll Fill this Space, but First a Nap, highlighted is the fact that ideas need to “percolate and marinate.” Not only is the brain in need of rest, lack of sleep is detrimental, the lack of which causes the brain stress and can actually kill brain cells.
So next time you’re trying to devise the perfect creative solution for a problem, consider taking a nap or just going to sleep; your brain will thank you for it and that “ah ha” moment just might be closer when you wake.