Aha Moments In the Middle of the Night

Sometimes dreams will give you vague pictures and a rough outline that something’s going on.

You wake up, no idea what the dream was.

Then, minutes later, an idea occurs. You come to a new understanding. You put the pieces together.

Not a dream

Technically, that’s not a dream. You’re in none of the stages of the sleep cycle. You’re not asleep.

Yet this “new understanding” this aha moment has to be related to sleep and dreaming because of the actions that surround it. You were asleep. You’re up, awake briefly, and then you return to sleep.

Dreams are implicated in consolidating information. Perhaps sometimes the brain is still consolidating memories when you briefly wake.

Either way, increasing your awareness of dreams, increases awareness of these moments.

For me, they happen occasionally. I’ve developed the habit of writing dreams down, making quick notes in the middle of the night about what I was dreaming. When this kind of episode happens, I have no idea as to what I was dreaming. Yet, a connection about something, an experience that happened to me suddenly occurs.

Researchers have identified other characteristics.

  • The aha moment is sudden.
  • The solution to a problem comes to you easily.
  • It’s positive.
  • You’re convinced that it’s the right solution

You’re not necessarily stuck on a problem

Sometimes these moments are thought of as occurring to you when you’re stuck on a problem. This is not necessarily true. You can have an aha moment about a problem you weren’t even aware of. This happens when you’ve got more than one problem. Your conscious mind is occupied during your waking hours. Then, when you’re sleeping, your subconscious has its say: “What about this other thing?”

These aha connections can be valuable, even vital. It could pertain to something that you need to do; a realization about someone you know; a way through a challenge; or an understanding of how something works. Anything.

There are no guarantees with ah-ha moments, whether trivial or important. It might even be a random process.

How would you even begin to study something like this?

For me, studying them would be difficult because they’re infrequent. For someone else, they could be much more common.

According to the article in Wikipedia about “the Eureka effect” (another name for this phenomena) different tests have been designed, like the Nine Dot Problem. Solutions rely on connecting to other invisible dots, so they rely on altering your understanding of the rules of the puzzle. They test “thinking outside of the box.”

Researchers have also used verbal riddles:

Q: A man was washing windows on a high-rise building when he fell from the 40-foot ladder to the concrete path below. Amazingly, he was unhurt. Why?

A: He slipped from the bottom rung!”

This riddle relies on deceptive wording. There’s absolutely nothing amazing about being uninjured after falling one rung on a ladder. If you weren’t told it was amazing, you’d probably be more likely to come up with the right answer if you never had seen the puzzle before.


Also on the blog:

James Cobb, RN, MSN founded the Dream Recovery System, a blog dedicated to bringing to light techniques and knowledge about improved sleeping habits and tools.
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