Waking Up Right After Drifting Off To Sleep Can Boost Creativity

sciencehabit writes: When Thomas Edison hit a wall with his inventions, he would nap in an armchair while holding a steel ball. As he started to fall asleep and his muscles relaxed, the ball would strike the floor, waking him with insights into his problems. Or so the story goes. Now, more than 100 years later, scientists have repeated the trick in a lab, revealing that the famous inventor was on to something. People following his recipe tripled their chances of solving a math problem. The trick was to wake up in the transition between sleep and wakefulness, just before deep sleep. The study team also identified a brain activity pattern linked to the creativity-boosting phase: moderate levels of brain waves at a slow frequency known as alpha, associated with relaxation, and low levels of delta waves, a hallmark of deep sleep. Experts say researchers can now focus on this brain signature when investigating the neural mechanisms of creative problem-solving. One team has already planned an experiment to help people reach a creative zone by monitoring their brain waves in real time. "Edison's intuition was somewhat right," says the lead scientist, "and now we have a lot more to explore."

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