How to capitalise on the power of dreams

Creativity isn’t confined to the waking life – many musicians, artists, and writers have spoken of how ideas have come to them in their sleep

You might be surprised by how influential dreams have been in the creation of some of the world’s most notable artistic, sporting and business achievements.

Dreams provided Paul McCartney with the song Yesterday, Mary Shelley with the book Frankenstein, and Jack Nicklaus with the perfect golf swing.

The iconic flag paintings by Jasper Johns came from inspiration while sleeping, as were the plot for RL Stevenson’s story the Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, and Coleridge’s poem Kubla Khan.

The structure of benzene came to German chemist Kekule in his dreams, psychologist Otto Loewi won the Nobel Prize after dreams showed him how to prove his theory on the chemical transmission of nerve impulses, and Madame CJ Walker is cited by the Guinness Book of Records at the first female American self-made millionaire after building a cosmetics company on products which were devised in her dreams.

And this is just the tip of the iceberg.

Significant numbers of studies have been carried out on the subject of sleep and creativity, with the results one particular study suggesting some sleep states are conducive to fluid reasoning and flexible thought.

Another study showed that participants were more likely to display enhanced humour while sleeping, to the point where they would create new jokes as well as paraphrase existing ones.

But for many people dreams disappear as soon as they wake, leaving them with little to no recollection of what their minds were creating, taking away any chance of capitalising on any potential revelations.

Which is where dream diaries come in.

The theory is that with the use of a simple pen and notepad, you can access the many wonders your sleep might produce.

It’s up to you how you do it, but the established basic method of keeping a dream diary is as follows:

•  Keep your notepad by your bedside and within easy reach. Dream details usually fade quickly after waking, so it’s important to record them immediately.

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