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The song Yesterday came to Paul McCartney in a dream. He woke up and there it was. McCartney said ‘I just fell out of bed, found out what key I had dreamed it in…and I played it’.
Magic? Nope, it’s the creative power of the brain when asleep.
Whilst it’s highly unlikely I’ll wake up tomorrow with one of the best songs of all time waiting to fall out of my head onto a piano, my brain – and yours – are capable of incredible feats of creatively whilst we’re asleep.
What is creativity? It’s putting ideas and information together in novel ways to create something new, develop a new insight, a new song, etc. This doesn’t come naturally to most of us whilst we’re awake as our brains are working in straight lines and thinking logically, in steps and associations.
Something different happens when we’re asleep. During REM sleep, particularly whist you dream your brain takes pieces of information and memories and randomly combines them together to develop new thinking and new insights. Pretty cool, right?
This happens because you turn off the parts of the brain that control rational thought and turn up the parts associated with visual, emotional, autobiographical and motor memories. The combining of these make for a mental firework show of emotions and images. It’s this blending that leads to novel thinking and creativity.
So if you’re trying to write the next best song of all time get some sleep and leave your brain to get on with it.