In a recent study, researcher from the University of California, Dr. Sara Mednick found that people improved their problem solving ability when they took a nap between the morning and afternoon that included a period of REM sleep. For those participants that just rested but did not have REM sleep, there was little change in their problem solving abilities.
REM sleep is also known as a period of deep sleep where there is literally rapid eye movement. Typically, it occurs about 90-120 minutes of the total sleep in a night for most humans.
According to Dr. Mednick, creative problem solving that uses dreams usually is not successful at first. However when the person makes the decision to let go of the problem and does not consciously try to solve it, the solution to the problem comes to the person's consciousness in a dream that is recognized upon awakening.
The neocortex of the brain is the part of the brain associated with thinking. When this part of the brain is free to integrate fresh information, it is then that the solutions are realized. It is expecially important for people such as artists, musicians, and scientists whose daily work is matched closely to the function of the neocortex in the brain where new connections of familiar information is made.
Many famous inventors throughout time have had the creative information come to them through dreams.
I remember one particular time in my own life where I had fought for about two days to fix an email problem on a computer system. My time was running short because I was supposed to get on an airplane the next day. As the end of the day neared, I had no idea at that moment of how to fix the problem. That night, I went back to my hotel and just decided to relax and let the problem go for the evening. Going to bed, I fell asleep and felt very rested the next morning. When I got to the site to begin working on the problem, what seemed like a mystery the day before all of the sudden seemed to fit into place. It took less than 30 minutes to fix the problem that I had wrestled with for two days.
For a long period of my life, I did not allow myself to dream at night because what kept coming up was like a horror movie times a thousand. These events were too rough for me to deal with and so I just shut down the dreaming at night. As time has gone, I have started to dream again. Or maybe I should be more correct in that I remember more of my dreams. The dreaming was probably always there but not where I could even recognize it. Now, my dreams are usually vivid in many ways and often times I do remember them.
I've always heard that naps are good but never paid it that much attention. We have our children take naps every day. Yet, we as adults discard this practice because it does not fit in with our many tasks that we need to accomplish in our day. However, we might be more productive and more centered in our day if we took time out to take a nap or find ways to relax.
Maybe it is like the commercial on TV that says "milk does a body good". Instead of milk - we should say "a nap does a body good".