The automatic sewing machine, the computer-controlled anti-aircraft gun, Otto Loewi’s Nobel-Prize-winning experiment on nerve impulses—all came as concrete plans in a dream, says Deirdre Barrett
, a psychologist at Harvard University and author of The Committee of Sleep
. So, how do you increase the chances of your own Nobel-worthy breakthrough? First, think of your problem right before you go to sleep, says Barrett. Conjure up an image of the problem you need to solve (your Mac’s frozen screen, your husband’s face). Then, whatever you do, don’t move when you wake up; even turning your head may displace the dream. If you've had nonsensical dreams, think about whether the imagery or events could be a metaphor for something that relates in any way to the problem you're stuck on, says Barrett. In her weeklong study, 50 percent of the volunteers had a dream about their problem and 25 percent actually dreamt up a solution.