Monday, September 29, 2008
Above: Alberto Frias' Sleep Pod.
I've always found that after any long period of intense study or problem solving that it's best to just stop and move on to something else while I let the smart part of my brain figure it out. I like to think of this as part of my thinkubation period. Taking a quick 15 minute nap when I'm stuck or need to quietly gel for a few moments almost always seems to help reboot my thinking and approach, thus improving the final result, which is the other part of my thinkubation period. When a quick nap doesn't do the trick and if time allows, I simply forget about it, give it a few days and let my smarter and much more intuitive subconscious find the most effective and creative solution.
Mowing the lawn, walking the dogs or a taking a spin around the neighborhood on my bike seems to work wonders as well, but there's something special about giving your body something it needs to truly function properly - rest.
Steven P. Jobs, the chief executive of Apple, once defined creativity as “just connecting things.” Sleep assists the brain in flagging unrelated ideas and memories, forging connections among them that increase the odds that a creative idea or insight will surface.
While traditional stories about sleep and creativity emphasize vivid dreams hastily transcribed upon waking, recent research highlights the importance of letting ideas marinate and percolate.
“Sleep makes a unique contribution,” explains Mark Jung-Beeman, a psychologist at Northwestern University who studies the neural bases of insight and creative cognition.
Some sort of incubation period, in which a person leaves an idea for a while, is crucial to creativity. During the incubation period, sleep may help the brain process a problem.
“When you think you’re not thinking about something, you probably are,” says Dr. Jung-Beeman, who has a doctorate in experimental psychology.
Check out the rest of Leslie Berlin's insightful piece: We’ll Fill This Space, But First A Nap.