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Can’t find that perfect training idea for next week’s session? Sleep on it.

Sometimes an extra 2 or 3 hours of sleep can be better for your career than an extra 2 or 3 hours of work.

When there’s a deadline looming and you haven’t quite found the right creative solution for an upcoming training program, it’s tempting to keep pushing late into the day, even into the night, until a good idea finds you.

According to an article I recently read in a Time magazine special edition focused on the science of creativity, pushing through and sacrificing sleep may not yield the result you’re hoping for. 

In an article entitled The Power of Sleep: Our Uncensored, Slumbering Brains can Dream Up Limitless Vistas, Jeffrey Kluger offers a 3-page review of some interesting studies on the connection between sleep and creativity.

While he offers some insights as to why it may be good for your creative side to have dreams where you’re back in high school, except it’s not your old high school, but for some reason in the dream your mind told you it was your high school, and your college roommate decides to take a flying car past the whomping willows and crash the gates of Hogwarts, except instead of Hogwarts you crash the car into the frozen food aisle of a corner bodega, the part of the article I found most interesting (and more transferable to my work) was a little strategy you can do right before going to sleep.

“Engaging in some pre-bedtime priming – contemplating a problem you’d like to solve – increases the likelihood that sleep will bring some answers. Up to a third of subjects in Watson’s sample groups reported that priming had helped them find a solution that had eluded them during the day.”

My one-word resolution for this year is “new”. As part of that, I’ve been on the lookout for new research. I’m sure I can go out and find a gazillion other articles about the connection between sleep and creativity, but for now, this article will suffice. The idea of priming my brain just before drifting off into blissful slumber is something I’m going to try as clients continue to demand increasingly creative solutions to keep people engaged in professional development.

How about you? Have you found that a good night’s sleep helps you come up with better and more creative training solutions? Or does it stress you out, only for you to wake up and curse yourself for trading two or three hours from the previous night that you could have been working on a problem? I’d love to read your experiences and thoughts in the comment section.


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