Want to solve a problem? Sleep on it.
Having a nap in the afternoon can help you overcome tricky problems, new research suggests. A study found that Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep, when most dreaming occurs, can enhance creative problem-solving by up to 40 per cent.
REM sleep is characterised by darting eye movements. The body is temporarily paralysed and does not respond to sensory inputs. It begins about an hour after you nod off and occurs up to five times a night.
Participants in the study were better able to solve word association games after they had a refreshing siesta.
Researchers said the tests indicated REM sleep stimulates creativity by helping the brain make new and useful associations between unrelated ideas.
Study author Dr Sara Mednick from UC San Diego said: ‘We found that – for creative problems that you’ve already been working on – the passage of time is enough to find solutions.
‘However, for new problems, only REM sleep enhances creativity.’
Scientists tested the impact of sleep by using a creativity task called the ‘Remote Associates Test’ (RAT).
Participants were shown multiple groups of three words – for example, cookie, heart, and sixteen – and asked to come up with a fourth word that can be associated with all three. In this example the answer would be ‘sweet’.
The volunteers were tested in the morning and again in the afternoon after either a nap with REM sleep, one with non-REM sleep, or a quiet rest period.
‘Although the quiet rest and non-REM sleep groups received the same prior exposure to the task, they displayed no improvement on the RAT test,’ said researcher Denise Cai.
‘Strikingly, however, the REM sleep group improved by almost 40 per cent over their morning performances.’
The findings were reported in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Via Daily Mail