Most people, Dr. Ellenbogen says, think of the sleeping brain as similar to a computer that has “gone to sleep” — it does nothing productive. Wrong. Sleep enhances performance, learning and memory. Most unappreciated of all, sleep improves creative ability to generate aha! moments and to uncover novel connections among seemingly unrelated ideas.
Some sort of incubation period, in which a person leaves an idea for a while, is crucial to creativity. During the incubation period, sleep may help the brain process a problem.
Dr. Ellenbogen’s research at Harvard indicates that if an incubation period includes sleep, people are 33 percent more likely to infer connections among distantly related ideas, and yet, as he puts it, these performance enhancements exist “completely beneath the radar screen.” In other words, people are more creative after sleep, but they don’t know it.
Here’s the science to the creative benefits of sleep, aptly called "the greatest creative aphrodisiac." Decades earlier, T. S. Eliot championed the notion of "idea incubation" and even longer ago, Thomas Edison used power-naps as his secret weapon.
Pair with the science of what happens when you sleep and how it affects your every waking moment.