Woman sleeps leaning against pillow with multiple drawings representing ideas around her head.

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Why You Get All the Best Ideas as You’re Falling Asleep

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Why You Get All the Best Ideas as You're Falling Aslee

Just as you’re sinking into sleep, a slew of the greatest ideas you’ve ever had pop into your head.


Why does this happen?


Letting go of control

All of the thoughts that lead you astray from your tasks during the day are finally freed, unfiltered, when you lie down to rest.


Barry Gordon, a professor of neurology and cognitive science at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, tells Scientific American that we are only aware of a tiny fraction of our thoughts. The vast majority of our ideas enter our subconscious minds. While those thoughts might pop into awareness before bedtime, says Gordon, many times they’ve been simmering for a while.


The random thoughts you have throughout the day often aren’t connected until you let your brain wander freely. This is what happens during the “Aha!” moment when connections are made and insight comes. When people fall asleep, brain cells that weren’t connected before are able to link up, allowing for more creative thinking, Tara Swart, a lecturer at MIT Sloan Executive Education, says in Fast Company.


“There [are] a lot of famous stories of people, just as they were falling asleep or just as they were waking up, having this moment of insight … something that you’ve been thinking about anyways,” says Swart. “But it’s only when you’re in a close sleep stage that you get a really good idea about it.”


If the average person spends one-third of their life sleeping, as neuroscientist Russell Foster notes in this Ted Talk, (that’s 32 years if you live to be 90), a lot of ideas get lost because they’re never recorded. Let’s face it—good ideas are nothing if not recorded, shared and implemented.


Recording those “Aha!” moments

The next time those great ideas hit, you have two choices: You can either get up and write down your ideas or tell yourself you’ll do it later when you wake up. You’ll likely forget those thoughts if you decide on the latter. Consider having a notebook or a recording device nearby to jot down those sleepy ideas.



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