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Harvard psychology professor and dream researcher Deirdre Barrett suggests this as one method of using dreams to solve problems. “Incubation rituals” developed by psychologists usually target interpersonal and emotional problems, but they are also relevant to objective creative tasks. Incubation instructions usually include:

1. Write down the problem as a brief phrase or sentence and place this by the bed.

2. Review the problem for a few minutes just before going to bed.

3. Once in bed, visualize the problem as a concrete image if it lends itself to this.

4.  Tell yourself you want to dream about the problem just as you are drifting off to sleep.

5. Keep a pen and paper—perhaps also a flashlight or pen with a lit tip—on the night table.

6. Upon awakening, lie quietly before getting out of bed. Note whether there is any trace of a recalled dream and invite more of the dream to return if possible. Write it down.

[RELATED: Deirdre Barrett explains how dreams shape our lives — and the lives of famous people]

Sometimes the incubation also involves:

  • At bedtime, visualize yourself dreaming about the problem, awakening, and writing on the bedside note pad.

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