Napping was linked to more creative output immediately afterward compared with remaining awake, a recent study found. Africa Studio/Shutterstock.com
Lightbulb inventor Thomas Edison believed a little shuteye could boost his creativity. Contemporary scientists think the iconic innovator was on to something.
But timing is key, they say.
“We found a strong effect of ‘sleep onset’ on creativity,” said study author Kathleen Esfahany, an undergraduate student focusing on computer science and neuroscience at MIT.
Sleep onset, Esfahany explained, refers to the earliest stage of sleep, when people transition from a woozy but still awake state into sleep.
Also known as N1, sleep onset has long been credited — without much scientific proof — as having the power to gin up the creative juices.
In Edison’s case, when struggling with a problem, he would reportedly grip a metal ball in his hand just before falling asleep. The idea was to quickly awaken at the noise of its fall, in order to take advantage of a freshly liberated mind.
By the time of his death in 1931 — and perhaps in part due to those inspirational catnaps — he acquired 1,093 patents.
For this new research, investigators set out to answer two main questions: Does napping indeed supercharge creativity, and can that nap-induced creativity be shaped and enhanced by adding audio-guided suggestions?
The experiment made use of a hand-worn device called “Dormio,” which the team developed during prior research.
Fashioned as a high-tech glove, the device assesses three markers of sleep onset: muscle tone shifts, heart rate and arousal status as measured by skin-based electrical activity (skin conductance). The