How to be productive, even while you sleep

What do a Rolling Stones song, Einstein’s theory of relativity, and the sewing machine have in common? They just a few ideas that came to their creators in dreams.

"Structured unconscious generative ideation" is a belief that we can train our brains to generate ideas while we rest -- or "sleep-storm."

"Everything you do during the day, if you ruminate about it enough, you're going to dream about it at night,” explained Dr. Sagarika Nallu, a neurologist with Tampa General and USF.

Nallu says there's no proven way to control the content of our dreams. "There's no clinical evidence that there's any connection between inducing dreams and being more creative."

But some say sleep-storming can still be a thought exercise that helps increase productivity. Laura Scott is an executive, life and leadership coach in Tampa. We asked her if there a way to positively think ourselves to sleep so we dream up some great ideas.

"I think there is and I think it's really positively priming yourself to sleep," Scott offered. "I recommend a pre-sleep ritual and one thing is to reflect and have gratitude around the things you did get done that day rather than beat yourself up for things you didn't get done that day."

She says to ask your subconscious the question you're trying to answer as you drift off. "The right question is a ‘how’ or ‘what’ question -- How can I support my child? Connect to my allies? What amazing things can I accomplish? You want to positively prime your brain to run best-case, not worst-case scenario."

Some sleep-storming believers say if you wake yourself mid-sleep it can help intercept an idea. But Dr. Nallu says that's the last thing to do for a healthy mindset. "If you have a good night sleep through all the stages you go through, it will help maintaining your attention, memory, mood and concentration."

A notebook by the bed can help you record ideas you get in the middle of the night, or purge any worries keeping you up.

And while you might not dream a song like the Beatles' ‘Let it Be’ or come up with ‘The Terminator’ like James Cameron, positive thinking at night can save you time and stress during your day.

"Just focus on the three most important things you can accomplish that day that can make the most profound difference on your happiness and well-being,” Scott advised.  “Keep it simple, small, and be focused.”

Dr. Nallu's point? "It's more the amount of sleep."

So maybe the secret to a good idea is just good sleep.