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Sleep Fosters Insight Into Real-Life Problems

V. L. Perdomo, W. F. Hofman, L. M. Talamini


Anecdotal reports recount of individuals obtaining insights during sleep. For instance, various acclaimed scientists have attributed some of their greatest insights to sleep-related mentation. To date, this phenomenon has not been systematically investigated. The current study explored the occurrence and characteristics of Sleep-Related Insights (SRIs) in a large population sample, using a questionnaire approach. We found that a large majority of participants (~80%) experienced SRIs at some point in their lives and about 40% obtained SRIs regularly. Most of these subjects could link SRIs to remembered sleep mentation. SRIs were reported to occur in both sleep and half-sleep states, and at any point of the sleep period. Furthermore, SRIs regarded emotional preoccupations about twice as often as theoretical problems. Finally, SRIs were not robustly related to subjective sleep-quality, but small positive correlations with insomnia and narcolepsy-like symptoms were observed. In conclusion, SRIs are much more common than might have been expected, manifest in several forms and appear to be part of normal, healthy sleep. Importantly, the strong link of SRIs with sleep mentation suggests they result from some form of higher-order information processing during sleep, rather than being (fully) secondary to general restorative effects of sleep. Finally, our findings show that a large portion of the sampled population is aware of sleep’s benefits for real life problem solving and experiences such benefits on a regular basis.


Sleep; Insights; Problem-solving; Creativity; Memory; Dreams

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