Can You Be Productive While You Sleep?
When Larry Page was a 22-year-old graduate student at Stanford in the 90s, he was struck in the middle of the night with a vision: He had somehow managed to download the entire Web and just keep the links.
During a 2009 University of Michigan commencement speech, he said he immediately grabbed a pen when he awoke and wrote down what became the basis for an algorithm. He used this algorithm to power a new Web search engine now known as Google.
“When a really great dream shows up, grab it!” the Google cofounder and now Alphabet CEO advised.
The idea of harnessing our dreams is nothing new, Arianna Huffington points out in her sleep manifesto, “The Sleep Revolution,” and many major breakthroughs, like our understanding of the structure of molecules and the periodic table of elements, were the result of dreams.
“During sleep the neurons of the brain are reorganized, so we see new patterns, we see solutions, where before we could only see obstacles,” she tells Business Insider.
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According to psychologists from UC San Diego, sleep improves our ability to come up with creative solutions to problems by assisting the brain in flagging unrelated ideas and memories and forging connections among them. REM sleep works better than any other state of being at fostering creative thinking, they conclude.
Dr. Jeffrey Ellenbogen, a neurologist at Harvard Medical School and director of the Sleep Laboratory at Massachusetts General Hospital, also 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.
“How often have we woken up with clarity about a problem or having resolved an emotional issue? That’s why dreams are so important,” Huffington says.
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