We all understand that there is a roughly 90-minute sleep cycle your body goes through while you're unconscious. Waking up at the end of it is great for productivity, but if you need to generate ideas, try waking up about 30 minutes before the end.
Photo by Michael Bentley
When you are 60 minutes into a 90 minute sleep cycle, your brain is producing delta waves, and processing the information you've taken in throughout the day. As we've discussed before, sleep and creativity are intertwined. Waking up during this part of your sleep cycle will leave you groggy, but your internal editor will also be pushed to the side. The sleepy ideas you might have otherwise thought were too dumb to work can make it to the page without a filter, where you can edit them later. As creativity blog Lateral Action explains:
In other words, as they write, the creative part of them is shooting out ideas, but another part is saying "change that", "that would work better over there", "that won't work". When the two are in balance, no problem; but a real problem arises when that other part stifles the creative flow, because ideas are stopped dead before they have a chance to put down roots.
By jolting oneself awake earlier than usual, Brande contended, the creative juices could flow without the editor being awake enough to interfere with things. Quite why the editor would find it harder to struggle to wakefulness was never fully explained -- but Ms. Brande obviously believed this to be the case, and my own experience seems to bear her out.
What this means isn't that you should give up on trying to stick to the 90-minute intervals of sleep. Rather, waking up at different times serves different purposes. If you wake up 60 minutes into the cycle, you probably won't be very productive. But you might have an idea that would have otherwise been lost to sleep.
How Interrupting Your Sleep Can Silence Your Doubts and Boost Your Creativity [Lateral Action via 99u]