Exploring the Sleeping Mind

Brilliant Dreamer: Are You Smarter in Your Sleep?

The inventor Thomas Edison used to nap while holding a metal ball in his hand, and as he fell asleep and his hand would relax, the sound of the ball hitting the ground would wake him. The artist Salvador Dali used the same trick, but with a key in his hand. These two brilliant, creative minds were tapping into the same source of creativity: dreams. By waking themselves up during dreams, they greatly increased the chances of remembering those dreams.

Why would they interrupt the restorative nature of sleep? As we drift to sleep, and our bodies relax, so do the distractions and stresses of the waking world. Our minds begin to use dreams to process information in a unique and insightful way, while the often-flawed logic of our conscious thought is slowed. Without these distractions and logical constraints, our minds work through our ideas, emotions, and memories in ways that can connect the dots, show us the bigger picture, and express things in abstract and creative imagery. For example, repressed fears we don’t even realize we have may be released in dreams as nightmares; or your brain may practice dealing with a stressful boss that is always hounding you for results by dreaming of being chased by an actual hound. By analyzing these dreams, not only do we gain a window to the subconscious, but we also unlock our brains’ creative side. Psychologists have found that even if you don’t have an Edison or Dali moment in your dreams, the simple practice of thinking about your dreams upon waking can boost creativity later.[1]

We spend about a third of our lives asleep anyway—why not harness that time to boost insight, creativity, and possibly spark some brilliant ideas along the way? Check out my About page to learn more about why and how to remember, understand, and interpret your dreams.


[1] Sierra‐Siegert, M., Jay, E., Florez, C., & Garcia, A. E. (2016). Minding the dreamer within: An experimental study on the effects of enhanced dream recall on creative thinking. Journal of Creative Behavior, doi:10.1002/jocb.168

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