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Why do I always come up with my best ideas when I’m trying to get to sleep? © Getty Images

Why do I always come up with my best ideas when I’m trying to get to sleep?

Asked by: Yasmin Hayes (age 13)

The transition from wakefulness to sleep is called the ‘hypnagogic state’, and this is thought, anecdotally, to be associated with creativity. The surrealist artist Salvador Dalí called it the “slumber with a key”, and Mary Shelley said that the idea for her novel Frankenstein came to her during a “waking dream”.

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There’s actually been little scientific research into the link between the hypnagogic state and creativity, but during this state, our mind is free to wander, and this could make us more likely to have spontaneous, creative thoughts. If you fall asleep immediately after this state, you will likely forget your inspirational ideas, so maybe keep a pen and paper by your bedside!

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Authors

Alice is a Professor of Psychology at Goldsmiths. She has contributed to several diverse research areas, including the longitudinal associations between sleep and psychopathology, behavioural genetics, sleep paralysis and exploding head syndrome. In addition to her scientific contributions she also excels in the public engagement of science. She has published two popular science book (Nodding Off, Bloomsbury, 2018 and Sleepy Pebble, Nobrow, 2019). She regularly contributes articles to the media and has had her work published in outlets including the Guardian, GQ UK, Sud Ouest, Slate Fr, Independent.

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