Superb news: Dreams enhance creativity. Artists, scientists, and authors alike often credit dreams as sources of creative insight. Research seems to confirm this. Dreaming enhances problem-solving ability and critical thinking.
In new research, test subjects completed analogies and then either: napped without dreaming, napped with dreaming, or rested quietly without sleeping. After the break, they attempted to solve problems that required creative associations that coincided with the previous analogies task. The subjects that dreamed made the connection. They significantly outperformed the other two groups.
Sara Mednick, a psychologist at UCSD, believes she knows why. In REM sleep, cortical activation spreads from whatever you’ve been thinking about to assemble associated concepts (yada, yada, neurotransmitters, yada, yada, epinephrine). Dreams, the researchers believe, can help relieve tip-of-the-tongue frustrations. Co-author of the study Denise Cai explains, “So many times, we already have the solution somewhere in our brain. It just needs an extra ‘boost’ before it can be accessed.”
Dreams studies come and go, and it seems no great surprise that better sleep, dream-filled sleep, fosters creative and critical thought. Still, it’s a necessary reminder for me — rest.