Dragonfly Thinking is a book authored by Bruce Oberhardt intended to help you develop superior problem solving skills.

Does Sleep Really Help in Solving Complicated Problems

Does Sleep Really Help in Solving Complicated Problems

I recently read an article in Fast Company magazine by Rachel Gillett that says:“Sleep helps us make mental connections, but after last week’s habit challenge we don’t advise counting on it to solve complicated problems.”

In the article it was noted that: “By assisting the brain in flagging unrelated ideas and memories and forging connections among them, sleep has been found to improve our abilities to come up with creative solutions to problems. One neurologist at Harvard Medical School even found that if an incubation period—a time in which a person leaves an idea for a while—includes sleep, people are 33% more likely to infer connections among distantly related ideas.”

(You can see the full article here: http://www.fastcompany.com/3040210/how-i-get-it-done/what-happened-when-we-tried-sleeping-on-our-problems.)

Then a group of Fast Company writers and contributors proceeded to put this theory to a test. Their outcome noted very little success and that: “…for the most part, those aha! moments we were looking for are generally reserved for the Sherlock Holmeses of the world.”

Whereas the above noted article would appear to minimize the benefit of sleeping on problems to find solutions, it is not clear to me that sleep has ever been a sure way to come up with solutions to problems for all people at all times.

In my experience, you can’t just go to sleep at night and expect to come up with a solution to a complicated problem. Although this happens, it is not a sure thing. Furthermore, some people get their “aha” moments in the shower or while running marathons. There is a process that I follow that I believe will work for most of us on this planet.

  • First you need to map out the problem and make it your own. This helps to engage the subconscious mind.
  • Then you need to find a way to relax. When the subconscious mind is engaged, and you are relaxed, connecting the hidden dots and coming up with a solution can occur during sleep or while you are awake, and there is no sure way to know when.
  • Physical activity can be very relaxing, especially after you stop. Sometimes simply daydreaming may result in the transfer of connectivity from the subconscious to the conscious mind and create the “aha” moment.

Here is an early blog I wrote on engaging the subconscious called the Iceberg Theory: http://autonomysingularitycreativity.blogspot.com/2008/11/iceberg-theory.html. Have you heard of this theory before? For more on this theory, see the Iceberg Theory of Epiphanies in “Dragonfly Thinking”.

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