As a design agency, we are always looking for ways to increase, optimize and nurture our creative processes.
Reading, observing and experiencing new activities all help stimulate our creative development skills. But one of the most helpful ways to break through a creative wall or develop insight into solving a branding, website design or advertising challenge, is something we do every night – SLEEP. That’s why we encourage everyone on our team to take short, mid-afternoon power naps if they need to. They usually hit that 3pm, post-lunch slump anyway, and most of the time, they can wake up with a new idea or several new ideas. I’ve always believed that when pondering an important decision, whether it’s in life or my career, there is serious value in ‘sleeping on it.’ In fact, I had been going back and forth all week about what I was going to write this week’s blog about, and I finally came up with the idea for this topic after waking up from a deep sleep Friday morning.
The key to solving your problem is to stop thinking about it completely.
For years, scientists thought that the function of sleep was merely to rest the body and mind, but recent research from the Annual review of Psychology: Sleep, Memory and Plasticity, suggests that, “sleep is essential for both learning and creativity.” No real groundbreaking evidence here – in fact that seems like common sense. What is intriguing however, is that the value of sleeping specifically after learning something or during a break while trying to solve a problem is much more impactful than previously thought. Studies have looked at the benefits of taking naps while in the process of problem solving as well as learning a new activity. They have also performed the same studies with people getting a full night’s rest instead of less than 8 hours. In all of the studies, researchers have discovered that “your brain becomes very active when you sleep, and that during certain phases of sleep, your brain becomes even more active if you’ve just learned something new.”
After reading through this research, I flashed back to my first internship in college when a former Creative Director of mine told me to “go take a nap” when I was becoming frustrated with some copy I was working on. When I continued to stand there in his office, confused and speechless, he went on to say, “…the key to solving your problem is to STOP THINKING ABOUT IT COMPLETELY. Trust me.” Trying to process his suggestion without an explanation was very difficult at the time. And even though I trusted him, part of me always wondered if his advice applied outside of the crazy advertising industry as well as his own perma-buzzed, Mad Man beliefs and work habits. Turns out that he was completely correct, and that was the best advice he ever gave me.