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Sleep Tips

Why I love to Dream About Work

✔️ Takeaway: if you like your work, dreaming about it means your brain is actively processing information. During REM sleep new information is mixed and matched with older knowledge to create novel solutions. If you dream about work, be on the lookout for a creative solution to a work-related problem.

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes, 36 seconds.

“Fuck, I missed the deadline to submitting that presentation to my client.” was the first thought when I woke up in the morning.

Raged out of bed.

Check my watch.

Wait a second.

That presentation is due tomorrow…

It was all a dream.

A dream about work…

Sound familiar?

Why I’m always happy to dream about work

You might feel weird when you dream about work. But it’s not as bad as you may make it out to be. On the contrary… I’m always happy when I’m dreaming about sending emails, writing new blog posts or even missing an important deadline.

When I was working on the website of an IT recruitment company, I also occasionally dreamed about getting more leads… updating code to increase lead sign ups doesn’t sound too inspirational, but it never felt stressful.

My girlfriend usually wakes up earlier at 6.00 Am. This gives me about 1 to 2 hours to get back to sleep. I’ve always noticed that this hour is my most dreamy hour. It’s fun to to have sweet dreams about flying, going on holiday, or being Harry Potter. But it’s even more fun if you know that those dreams are actually helping you advance your career.

So why would you be averse to work dreams? I get that if your work isn’t fun, you’re not going to like even more time thinking about it.

Yet, if your work challenges you, gives you plenty of control and freedom to give your own input…. Dreaming about work is an great thing.

REM sleep and creativity

Before we answer why it’s such a nice thing, let’s first dig into the science surrounding dreams.

Dreams happen during the REM stage of your sleep.

REM sleep is a lighter form of sleeping, where your brain resembles being awake.

The name is an acronym and means rapid eye movement“. Cause your eyes move rapidly from side to side.

But the main gist of what happens is this:

During REM sleep, your brain is mixing and matching information. It adds new information from the previous day to information in your long-term memory.

Little example: Im an avid gym goer. I’ve been doing it consistently for the last 6-8 years. And through this consistency, I’ve made a ton of progress. I know that progress there doesn’t come from 1 workout.

Let’s say I’m also working on improving my health. I’ve decided to quit caffeine. After 2 days of quitting, I haven’t noticed any benefits. I’m still feeling shitty because of the caffeine withdrawal. I’m on the verge of saying fuck it and getting back to fountains of black gold in the morning.

Now I have a good night’s sleep, and during REM the caffeine problem gets matched with my gym consistency experience.

1 + 1 = 3.

“Hey, maybe you should give it a couple more days. Be consistent. And then you’ll start to feel a lot better, maybe?”

This sounds obvious. But it’s during REM sleep, that your brain connects the dots.

So whenever I dream about work, I know that my brain is actively trying to solve work problems.

You must have a couple of things at work, that are not going well. Maybe you’re not getting the amount of sales you need for your bonus. Maybe you’re trying to butter up your boss for that promotion.

Hey, maybe you’re eyeing after the girl from HR, and trying to figure out a way to get to know her without it messing up your career? 🙂

In order for you to get the reward from solving those problems, you need…

Creativity is what you’re after.

To be successful at work, you need to find creative solutions to problems. That’s the only way you’re going to get paid a good salary. Or if you’re in your own business, to earn a good living.

If you’re getting paid to follow other people’s orders, and not add anything new to your job. then there will be a cap on your maximum salary.

The people that add new value and propose new solutions to problems, are the ones that get paid a lot of money. The simplest way to be more creative and have a higher problem-solving capability, is to have more REM sleep.

So if you’re serious about your career, earning money, and basically making something of your life… then you better make sure you get your REM sleep at night

2 Tips to increase REM sleep

Studies have shown that you mainly get your REM sleep at the second half of the night. So here are two simple tips that you can implement to get more REM sleep, for more creativity at your job:

Sleep longer

Below you can see a graph of how I slept a couple nights ago. As you can see I do get more REM sleep the second half of the night. So, what would happen if I would wake up 2 hours earlier? Of course, I would lose at least 20 to 30 minutes of REM sleep.

If you are currently sleeping less than 8 hours, you almost surely are not getting enough REM sleep that you need. So this is the first thing that you need to start working on. I recommend you go to bed earlier. Or see if you can skip several unnecessary morning tasks . This way you’ll be able to get more REM sleep to dream about work 😉

More REM sleep tip: you get the bulk of your REM sleep in the second half of the day. So the longer you sleep, the more ‘creativity’ sleep you’ll get. Also, waking up much earlier then usually can therefore decrease your amount of REM.

Skip the alcohol

I love to have a couple of drinks. But I also know that alcohol can have serious ramifications, if I use it at the wrong time or too much. Especially for sleep, alcohol can have serious consequences.
While you fall sleep faster, it will also decrease the quality of your deep sleep in the first half of the night. And later on it tears your REM sleep to shreds.

  • Don’t drink throughout the week
  • Behave yourself on the weekends (anything after the 6th drink is often unnecessary and worsens your nights anyways)
  • Drink earlier! That way your body will have cleared the alcohol by the time you’re going to bed.
  • Skip the late night shoarma. Don’t give your body more to process than the debauchery you’ve just gone through.

More REM sleep tip: alcohol makes it more difficult for your brain to get REM sleep. Try to drink earlier or skip the alcohol completely if you want to get more REM sleep.

Creativity is your superpower in 2019 and beyond…

In the book deep work Cal Newport says that one of the main superpowers in 2019 and beyond, is your ability to find new solutions to challenges. If you can help a thousand people with a $100 problem, your potential earnings to be $100.000.

Every big company that is making tons of money, can only do this because they’re solving big problems for a small amount of people. Or small problems for a huge amount of people.

I don’t have Netflix, but they’re a good example of solving a small problem for millions of people. Before Netflix there was limited selection of good series. You had to wait till a specific time of the week to watch it. And you couldn’t binge watch them, unless you illegally downloaded them.

Netflix solves all these problems, for just $10 per month.

You’re likely not going to create the new Netflix, but remember that whatever you do… people are willing to pay handsomely if you can solve their problems. You boss included.

So next time you wake up in the morning from a nice dream about spreadsheets, clients and software tooling… please put a big smile on your face. You’re getting ahead of all the competition in your sleep 😉

P.S. did you know that your brain turns off the part for rational thought in REM sleep? Even more opportunities for solving problems!

By Adrianus

Since childhood I've tried hundreds of little experiments to feel better, learn faster and perform higher (e.g. supplements, sports, psychological tricks, sleep and wacky diets).
After I graduated university in 2016, I basically found that sleep was the #1 factor to improve every aspect of life.
Bad sleep = bad life. I started SleepInvestor in 2017 to share my experiments and thoughts about sleep.

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