Just Sleep on It

This post is in response of the daily prompt – Moment of Clarity – Tell us about a time you’d been trying to solve a knotty problem — maybe it was an interpersonal problem, a life problem, a big ol’ problem — and you had a moment of clarity when the solution appeared to you, as though you were struck by lightening.

It is a common experience that a problem difficult at night is resolved in the morning after the committee of sleep has worked on it.
– John Steinbeck

You know the old adage that you should sleep on the book to learn something from it, well it works actually, sort of. I was a Civil Engineering major in college, so I had my fair share of late nights staring at pages of text and equations trying to figure out that impossible problem. Some nights the answer would be so close that you stay up late to solve the problem, other nights there was no hope in the world because you couldn’t find the equation or the variable you were looking for. That was when I would throw in the towel and call it a night. Sleep was more important that frustration.

Here’s the problem being a geek, or a nerd, or what ever you want to call me, my brain never shuts off. In fact, it kicks into overdrive when I sleep if I don’t make an active effort to clear my mind before I sleep. I get this deep dark sleep when I clear my brain, if not I usually have very vivid dreams about running or daily interactions with people. In college, I found out I do math and engineering homework in my sleep too. If I went to bed thinking about the homework I had just got stuck on, I would usually find myself solving it in my head, at least to the point where I could finish it with a calculator. I would remember not just where to find the equations that I couldn’t before, but the actual equation its self. In short, my brain, when I slept, would become the super computer that it is and process all the information and provide an answer. The only downfall was trying to remember all this in the morning after I woke up.

The solution I found to not forgetting what my brain had done while I slept was to keep a pad of paper and a pen next to my bed. I would attempt to wake my self up and write down a coherent and legible equation that I was thinking of and more often that not, I would be able to go back to sleep and not dream about math. Then in the morning, I would have my answer.

Yes, call me a geek, I do math in my sleep.


One response to “Just Sleep on It

  1. That’s pretty cool! Sometimes some time away from a hard problem can be all you need. I had a dream last night about running a marathon… I think I’m thinking too much about running!

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