Overnight Sleep Work: A New Brain Skill

A Brief Introduction

Every now and then I get the chance to work with very exceptional individuals and Patti Leva is no ordinary person.  I had the opportunity to work with her at a large medical device manufacturer.  I was a Design Engineer at the time, working on some new technology and under a ton of pressure to get it to market quickly.  Patti worked as the Occupational Nurse and was putting on a workshop on using meditation to enhance creativity.


I felt a noticeable relaxation at the first session.  By the end, I was able to recognize a subtle shift in my thinking.


More creative.  More relaxed.  More in-tune with the problem at hand.


The fog had been lifted and I was able to maintain focus longer than I ever.  It was great.  I still use the techniques I learned to this day.  Thankfully, Patti has graciously put together a post on a new set of skills.  At its most basic level, we can employ what we learn from our sleep to improve our problem solving during the day.  Well, just check out the below and keep an open mind.  It can work for you too.


Overnight Sleep Work: A New Brain Skill

Guest Blog By Patti Leva, MA, BS, RN


Did you know your brain is more active during the night than in the daytime?  Rather than being offline, the brain has an abundance of electrical and chemical activity during sleep.  This opens the door to developing a new skill by leveraging your brain’s refresh time. Without any effort, expense, and struggle, doing overnight sleep work will increase your productivity and creativity.


For a few centuries, the world was believed to be flat until more knowledge and experience came along. Most people think there are only 5 human senses; however, upwards to 20 senses such as balance pain, hunger, thirst and movement are innate for most.


Many think the brain checks out while we rest but this is a myth.


Furthermore, it was thought there were two separate brain centers limited to one for wakefulness in the brain stem, called the Reticular Activating Center and the other for sleep, located in the hypothalamus. What is now known is there are five brain states, three associated with sleep. During sleep there is a highly active intertwining of brain circuits cycling through different stages of sleep. With this potential, there can be new ways to use the powerhouse between your ears.


How can we work on a task while sleeping?


It takes a bit of practice but the results are surprising. Information gained while sleeping can be captured soon after awakening and applied at work or home.  For example, Reid Hoffman, the billionaire founder of LinkedIn and one of the co-founders of PayPal, knows that straining your brain during the workday is only one option to solving problems or generating novel ideas.  He says he writes a problem down before going to bed and lets his subconscious take over while his brain is actively churning through the sleep stages for several hours. Then Reid writes a little more about it soon after awakening. What pops up are simple ideas or answers that didn’t necessarily occur before going to bed.


Albert Einstein frequently used this “sleep on it” approach.  He said this was much more productive than daytime thinking.  Thomas Edison said, “Never go to sleep without a request to your subconscious.”



Tips for Overnight Tasks


1) Get Clear About the Ask: Pose a question, a project or a situation in such a way that you become transparent about what it is you want to ask your subconscious.  In order to uncover clarity, try a few times to ask the question, then say to yourself, “Is this the real issue/problem/idea?” until it becomes clear what is right to ask.  This uncovers the root cause.


2) Doubt Interferes With the Work of the Subconscious: Doubt sends a chemical neurotransmitter into the circuits which is not conducive to getting an answer.  It is important to trust the process when your head hits the pillow as this will strike up activity in the circuits that can produce an answer in some form. Assume a child-like curiosity. Most likely you have already practiced this method when losing car keys, misplacing a cell phone or forgotten the name of someone.  If you find yourself anxiously trying to recall these items, this usually creates no answer.  With enough frustration, you may have also learned to move on or to let go of the question or problem.  This results in the subconscious providing you with an insight or answer “out of the blue”.


This begs the question, why aren’t we taking brain breaks at work to purposefully use the sleep states as a management tool? Power naps can be very productive.


Getting ideas about the design of a new product can take place while cutting Zzzz’s! Finding an expert resource, locating a consultant, a piece of equipment or whatever is needed can be found using this overnight work skill.  Don’t miss this opportunity to tap into the sleeping brain’s abilities for increasing your creativity and productivity.



Patti Leva, MA, BS, RN


Long term brain trainer; former Occupational Health Nurse for Covidien and Medtronic; several decades as a meditation trainer traveling the US and Canada; author of Traveling the Interstate of Consciousness: A Driver’s Instruction Manual (1999).  Former adjunct trainer for the Kaiser Institute, Program in Intuition. Professional nursing practice in 8 states and fifteen healthcare organizations. Medtronic research project in 2015-16, Attention Training for Machine Operators Using Meditation as a Management Tool to Improve Productivity.