How Your Brain Solves Problems While You Sleep
The brain has the capability to solve problems even when you are asleep. It shares the same ability as your computer - to run several programmes at once. You might have had the experience of not being able to recall the name of a person or a place but remember it suddenly hours later. Although our conscious awareness is only able to process one thing at a time, the problems we are solving are always running under our radar. This means our brain is also capable of coming up with solutions when you are asleep. We explore how your brain solves problems while you sleep.
How does sleep help problem solving?
Writers to scientists have shared how they utilise sleep as a way to think creatively or solve a mathematical problem. Sleep involves two cycles. We begin with what is known as non-Rapid Eye Movement Sleep (NREM) which then deepens into Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep. While our waking brain works in an orderly manner, in the REM phase, ideas and memories perceived in the day become an abstract as things get reassembled. It is during this phase that sleep allows us to explore creativity to our problems in the daytime.
In a study from UCLA, a group of volunteers were given a remote-association test (RAT) and they had to take the test twice. Between the two sessions they were asked to take a 40 minute nap. Some rested during the interval whole others dozed and some went into REM sleep. Participants who went into the REM phase of sleep improved 40% on the test while other volunteers saw their scores go down. The experiment showed that sleep seems to have sharpened the brain’s ability to solve problems.
The next time you have a problem to solve, which you have a problem thinking out of the box in the day, prepare a note pad and a pen beside you on your bed. You may have an idea in your sleep, which you can quickly jot down on your notepad.
To drift effortlessly into REM sleep, you can check out our post on how to choose bed sheets for a comfortable night’s rest. Aside of it, knowing the time when to go to bed and help you fall asleep faster on your luxury mattress.