Ideas Right Before Falling Asleep

We’ve all had seemingly great ideas right before falling asleep. Ideas that mysteriously vanish in the morning light unless you keep a pen and notepad next to the bed and quickly scribble them down. But is that memory of great ideas true, or is our brain lying to us?

Questions about Those Ideas

What If They Only Seemed Great Because We Were Half Asleep?

I can’t be the only one who’s thought this. You wake up, blurrily stumble to the coffee maker or tea kettle. And beating through the fog of that struggle to consciousness is this nagging feeling that you had a great idea last night right before falling asleep.

If you wrote it down, maybe, you wander over to the notepad and stare at it with sleepy eyes a moment. “This? This is my great idea?”

I don’t remember to write mine down, so I can’t say if that’s the case or not. I kind of like to think so, though, because then I feel better about forgetting them.

What If We Didn’t Have a New Idea at All?

Why is it that we can’t remember the idea itself, but we can remember that we had one? Given how confused sleepy memories can be, what if that memory is actually the dream? What if there was no new, great idea last night, and we’re struggling to remember something that never existed?

That feels a little Matrix-y in trip level, but it’s certainly possible. Dreams can really mess with your memory and your feeling of what’s real or not.

Why Do We Have Ideas Right Before Falling Asleep Anyway?

And if it was a real idea, why then? Why at a moment least likely for the idea to be remembered?

Is it because our brain is already headed toward dreaming, and dreaming opens the paths of possibility to free the brain from many of the normal constraints of logic? Or maybe it’s our inner child trying to delay sleep. Maybe it grabs great ideas before they can fully form earlier in the day and holds them in ready for that moment when it’s told to go to bed.

Obviously, there must be some reason since so many people experience this phenomenon. Unfortunately just as obviously, I don’t know the answer (although I have plenty of supposition and outrageous suggestions).

TL;DR I Guess I Need a Notepad

Maybe, if I actually write them down and compare over time, I can at least prove the first two questions true or false. Part of me isn’t sure it wants to actually see these “great ideas” in the light of day (although that could just be a lazy part coming up with excuses). But even if I do and decisively prove that they were great ideas that really existed, I doubt I’ll ever have an answer to the last question. The human brain is still far too mysterious even to scientists let alone to ignoramuses like me.


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