Creative problem requires reconstructing how a problem is approached. Cognitive theories posit that this reconstruction is unconscious and happens when you take a break from effortful thinking, explaining the ‘incubation’ and the ‘aha’ moments when dealing with a creative roadblock. Furthermore, sleep plays a powerful role in that it provides time for the subconscious to work for inspiration. .
As described previously, sleep has several components that can be divided into NREM (non-rapid eye movement) and REM (rapid eye movement, the component with dreams). How exactly these different components aid in creative thinking is not well established, but there are some good ideas! One speculation is that both NREM and REM sleep replays neuronal representation of memory, allowing general understanding to be established in NREM while REM sleep promotes new associations. .
Although all animals sleep, only mammals and birds were thought to incorporate both NREM and REM phases in their sleep. However, lizards have also been found to have REM-like sleep patterns, recorded with an EEG! . This is interesting because it raises the question, “why is REM sleep (or perhaps dreams) important?” If this form of sleep rose multiple times as animals evolved, surely it has some significance. Perhaps dreams are a byproduct of REM and REM-like sleep. Perhaps REM sleep is important for memory formation, as it seems to be present in more cognitively aware animals. .
The search for these answers continue~