Problem Solving While Dreaming
The idea came to me in a dream. I was explaining the "add-subtract-change"
problem solving technique, having apparently just invented it
in that dream. I had never heard of it before, but previously,
while awake, I had been working on my book Problem Solving
Power. This new technique turned out to be very useful when
I tried it. It's an idea that has undoubtedly been thought of
by others, but it was unknown to me until that moment.
I've had this happen before. Story ideas have come to me in
a dream, and solutions to problems. When I was younger, I invented
a way to sail my sled on the Lake Michigan ice in my dream. When
the wind started up the next morning, I tried it for real and
Perhaps you've solved problems and have had new ideas in your
dreams as well. There's no doubt that it happens, but how do
we make it happen more often? Try some of the following.
Ideas in a Dream
- Keep pencil (or pen) and paper by the side of the bed. Note
any ideas you have when you first wake up. This process encourages
your mind to generate even more ideas. A tape recorder by the
bedside is even better. You can use it without a light and quickly
go back to sleep.
- Work on the problem a lot. A period of intense mental work
on a problem before sleep, "instructs" the subconscious
mind that this is important, and it will continue to work on
the problem during sleep.
- Write the problem down, and write down what qualities the
solution may have, just before going to sleep. dreams often utilize
real-life elements from the latter part of the time before sleep.
- Practice on simple problems. Get yourself to imagine a new
kind of furniture, or a new poem in a dream.
- Turn off the alarm. Wake up without an alarm, and you are
more likely to remember your dreams. If you need an alarm for
work, do your problem solving in dreams over the weekend.
- When you first wake up, lay still and review any dreams
you can recall. This "sets" them in your mind, so you
won't forget them. Later you can think back on them, to see if
there is anything useful there.
- Try sleeping on the floor or in another slightly uncomfortable
way (try this one when you don't have to work the next day).
The repeated waking up and going back to sleep creates the opportunities
to remember more dreams. I took notes on nine dreams in one night
this way. I also had two good ideas from them.
The best ideas may not come in a dream. Often good ideas and
solutions to problems come after you wake up. Reviewing
the problem mentally in the morning can encourage this process.
Are these techniques scientifically "proven." Not
yet. It's tough to scientifically measure the "value"
of an idea, or try to say what counts as an idea, in order to
see if the frequency increases when using these little tricks.
But people have had productive dreams for thousands of years,
and there is nothing harmful in trying to find an answer while
Why not try it tonight?