Take a nap to get creative

(ORDO NEWS) — Scientists from the University of Paris investigated the relationship between drowsiness (the first phase of N1 light sleep) and the ability to creatively solve monotonous tasks. It turned out that subjects who dozed for just one minute were 2.7 times more likely to find a hidden pattern that makes their work much easier. The authors of the study were inspired by the technique allegedly used by the inventor Thomas Edison.

Thomas Edison was an extremely prolific American inventor. On his account – the creation and improvement of a number of devices and technologies: from the phonograph to the iron-nickel battery and, of course, incandescent lamps. In total, 1093 patents were issued in the name of Edison.

Rumor has it that during his lifetime he used one unusual way to stimulate his own creativity: for this, the inventor allegedly settled down to rest in comfortable chairs, holding two steel balls in his hands. If Edisonstarted to fall asleep, then he dropped the balls, which fell with a roar into the pan and thereby instantly woke him up.

Edison, who had just been in a “twilight state” between sleep and reality, hastily wrote down the insights that came to him during this time. It was the “cultivation of half-sleep” and the creativity associated with it that was the goal of the “Edison technique”.

And now, in the 21st century, such a “way to invent” inspired scientists from the University of Paris to a curious study . Healthy subjects were asked to solve many similar problems – to convert a sequence of numbers into a shorter one, while being guided by simple rules. Initially, they did not know that the task could be greatly simplified if one noticed one simple pattern (the second digit of the sequence always coincided with the last one).

After 60 repetitions of this “cognitive work” volunteers were given 20 minutes to rest. They leaned back in a comfortable chair in a dark and quiet room – no wonder so many fell asleep while doing so.

A total of 49 subjects were awake for the entire rest period, and 38 fell asleep for a while. Among them, 14 reached the phase of deeper sleep N2, 24 – only the first phase of light sleep N1. We are talking about the so-called sleep without rapid eye movements (“sleep without REM”, NREM or N1) – a borderline state between sleep and wakefulness. The person staying in it can either fully wake up or fall asleep more soundly and move into N2 and subsequent phases of the sleep cycle.

In order to keep a fleeting moment of drowsiness, scientists used exactly the same trick as Edison. Resting volunteers were asked to leave a plastic bottle of water in their hands. As a rule, at the moment of falling asleep, she fell with noise and woke the subject.

The results exceeded the wildest expectations. The subjects who napped in the N1 phase were 2.7 times more likely to “invent” a way to simplify their work than the control group (83% versus 30%). It is noteworthy that only one minute of N1 phase sleep was enough for them, and those who fell asleep at the same time “more soundly” (N2 phase) did not achieve much success.

Although the researchers carefully recorded a number of indicators of the condition of the volunteers (EEG, eye movement and muscle tone), they find it difficult to unambiguously interpret their impressive results. However , it is hoped that they themselves or their colleagues will soon be able to learn more about the mechanisms by which the “Edison technique” works so effectively.


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