Want to change your industry or even better, the whole world, through disruptive innovation? Look no further than your pillow because your dreams contain a ton of revolutionary ideas every night.
Otto Loewi, who received the Nobel Prize in 1938 for his work on the chemical transmission of nerve impulses, wrote:
The night before Easter Sunday of that year I awoke, turned on the light, and jotted down a few notes on a tiny slip of paper. Then I fell asleep again. It occurred to me at 6 AM that during the night I had written down something most important, but I was unable to decipher the scrawl. The next night, at 3 o’clock, the idea returned. It was the design of an experiment to determine whether or not the hypothesis of chemical transmission that I had uttered 17 years ago was correct. I got up immediately, went to the laboratory, performed a single experiment on a frog’s heart according to the nocturnal design, and completed my experiment.
Chemical structure of the benzene ring was also discovered during dreaming when the scientist saw a snake holding its tail in the mouth.
There have been at least two Nobel prizes, inventions of numerous medications, and a plethora of very successful stories, novels, and pictures attributed to the unrestrained creativity of REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep.
Sleep consists of sleep cycles of about ninety minutes each, during which we cycle through light sleep (N1, N2 stage) and deep sleep (N3 and REM stage). On a typical night, we go through four to five such cycles, and with each cycle, our REM (rapid eye movement) sleep gets longer, deeper, and more restorative.
REM sleep, the most active state of our existence, has a hyperactive brain in a paralyzed body. Chaotic and incessant neuronal firings characterize REM sleep, leading to tremendous physiological activity and vivid dreams. Devoid of any constraints of time, place, or person, these vivid dreams spark innovation through out-of-the-world thinking. In the process, they help you create a world on your own terms. With a bit of practice, you can tap into this innovative power of your REM sleep.
Wakefulness gives you access to 10 billion neurons,
dreams to 90 billions. Remember your dreams & then open your eyes.
By using electrodes thinner than our hair, MIT researcher Dr. Matthew Wilson recorded neuronal firing in a rat’s brain as the rat ran a maze. He continued this recording when the rat was asleep. To his surprise, he found the neuronal firing during REM sleep was identical to that when the rat was awake and actually running the maze. Interestingly, these neuronal bursts during REM were even more intense than they were during wakefulness.
What’s more, while dreaming, we do not respect anatomical barriers. (In fact, the rat would run through the wall.) So, during REM sleep, you are not just thinking outside the box, but also running outside the box without the risk of banging into the wall.
Dr. Sara Mednik, a researcher at the University of California, San Diego, administered a remote association test in which she gave participants three words and asked them to come up with a word that would link those three words; for example, given sixteen, heart, and candy, the answer would be sweet. After a nap containing REM sleep, participants produced a whopping 40 percent increase in correct answers, which strongly suggests that REM sleep enhanced the formation of associative networks and integration of unassociated information. This was after just a short nap containing REM sleep. Can you imagine the creativity after a full night of sleep containing a total of two hours of REM? Hence, if your teenager presents you with a tough problem, you should say, “Let me REM on it!” I am sure you would wake up with a creative answer that would surprise you and please your teenager. Maybe not, but sleep on a tough problem anyway!
“I think that these dreams involve a search for new and creative ways to put memories and ideas together,” said Dr. Robert Stickgold of Harvard Medical School. “They can make associations that we wouldn’t make when we’re awake.”
Here are a few helpful tips to help you use REM’s Crazy Creativity to Transform Your Life:
- Accept the fact that we dream every night. We may not remember our dreams, but with practice, we can learn to remember and even modify them.
- In the afternoon and in the evening, with positive emotions and unrestrained creativity, intensely contemplate on a major problem.
- Ask for divine help by praying before retiring to bed. The Bible, in Matthew 18:23–26, says, “Have faith in God. I assure you: If anyone says to this mountain, ‘Be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him.” Praying helps us replace negative emotions, which are commonly associated with dreaming, with faith and optimism.
- Keep paper and pencil on your nightstand. When you wake up at night to use the restroom, jot down what you were dreaming about and then go back to bed without thinking further. In the morning, look at your dream notes and elaborate on them.
- Before opening your eyes in the morning, make it a point to ask yourself, “What was I dreaming about?”
If you use these tips, you will start tapping into the immense creative power of our brain. Also, remember this key point, even if you do not remember your dreams: They do occur every night, and they consolidate your memory and rearrange your information database, helping you think more clearly and, in the process, find a more creative solution.
I fly to Mars, enjoy a glass of Malbec while debating Abe Lincoln, hold the World Cup with Sachin, all in one dream. Why wake up?