From Dalí to Bill Gates: How to Use Dreams to Enhance Creativity

Learn two different methods to reach creativity through dreams. Take advantage of every second; even while you sleep.
From Dalí to Bill Gates: How to Use Dreams to Enhance Creativity
Leonardo Biolatto

Reviewed and approved by the doctor Leonardo Biolatto.

Written by Editorial Team

Last update: 07 May, 2024

Have you ever wondered if you could use your dreams as a key to enhance your creativity? In that dream world, your mind becomes a blank canvas waiting to be painted. Each dream is transformed into colorful brushstrokes, ready to awaken your imagination.

Instead of letting your daydreams fade away, catch them and discover how they can fuel original ideas. Open the door to the magic of your dreams and unleash the full potential of your creativity!

The methods of Dali and Bill Gates

Dreams – the figments of your imagination that unfold during the night – can be much more than just ephemeral scenes. In fact, they are an inexhaustible source of inspiration and fuel for your creativity.

When dreaming, the brain generates its own perceptions in the absence of external stimuli, fulfilling an essentially visual and dynamic creative function.

Some of the world’s most celebrated artists, scientists, and inventors had their moments of inspiration while they slept. Surrealist painter Salvador Dalí, for example, described his paintings as “hand-painted photographs of dreams,” including his most famous work, The Persistence of Memory.

When the Catalan wanted to produce a masterpiece, he would lie down on a sofa with a handful of pencils in his hand. He would also spray a few drops of perfume on his eyelids to influence the character of his dreams, as these were the fuel of surrealism.

In 1951 he published his book 50 Magic Secrets for Painting, in which he recommended “micro-naps” as a way to boost creativity. His method, known as “sleeping with a key,” consisted of 5 steps:

  1. Sit upright in an armchair with armrests.
  2. Hold a heavy metal key in your hand.
  3. Place a metal plate face down under the hand holding the key.
  4. Allow yourself to fall asleep. When that happens, you will release the keys, which will hit the plate and produce a big CLANG!
  5. Wake up and congratulate yourself on a successful micro-nap.
Dalí utilizar los sueños para potenciar la creatividad
Dali recommended “micro-naps” as a way to boost creativity. As well as sleeping with brushes in hand.

We think you may also enjoy reading this article: 15 Interesting Facts About Dreams That You Should Know

Bill Gates’ strategy to use dreams to enhance creativity

However, American business tycoon and philanthropist Bill Gates’ strategy for boosting his creativity is completely different. During the early years of Microsoft, he used to spend sleepless nights working on projects. However, his approach changed dramatically when he discovered Matthew Walker’s book Why We Sleep.

This book reveals how neglecting sleep is not only detrimental to creativity, but also to problem-solving, decision-making, learning, memory, and health. After absorbing these lessons, Gates began to prioritize good sleep hygiene, realizing that waking up each morning with renewed energy was crucial to his concentration.

What does the science say?

The relationship between dreams and creativity has been the subject of speculation for years. Sleep could prove to be a powerful ally of creativity, according to a study published in Science Advances. In it, the authors found that stage 1 or N1 sleep, with non-rapid eye movements, ignites a fire of original ideas.

When you dream, the brain is immersed in a different neurophysiological state than during wakefulness. In addition, it has been shown that there’s high activity in brain areas related to imagination. During this state, the brain is likely to find solutions to problems that have been stuck.

During a daydream, you can visualize or stimulate your own version of events, which can help you gain a new perspective. On the other hand, it allows your mind to wander and access randomly stored memories, emotions, and knowledge.

When you’re in a dream state, you can visualize or stimulate your own version of events.

~ Amy Fries in «Daydreams at work: wake up your creative powers» ~
Bill Gates potencia su creatividad con los sueños al leer libros sobre el tema
Reading a book recommended by his daughter encouraged Gates to improve his sleep hygiene.

Like this article? You may also like to read: 10 Myths About Sleep that You Should Stop Believing

5 ways to use dreams to enhance creativity

Prepare to immerse yourself in a world where the ability to use dreams to enhance creativity becomes a driving force in your life.

1. Record your dreams

Make sure you always keep a dedicated journal on hand to describe the images, emotions, and situations that emerge while you sleep. This simple habit will allow you to use your dreams to enhance creativity.

Place it next to your bedside table so you can capture those details when you wake up.

Each entry will help you generate fresh ideas and explore new perspectives. In addition, it will be an interesting reading into your inner world.

Keeping a dream journal is a relaxing activity that invites you to explore the symbols that appear in your daydreams. Some recommendations that will help you are the following:

  • Write down your dreams as soon as you wake up, even if it’s in the middle of the night: This habit will allow you to capture fresh and vivid details.
  • Focus on the details: Carefully record smells, tastes, colors, people, emotions, and sensations.
  • Title your dreams descriptively: Giving them a title will help you remember them and make it easier to look for patterns in the future.
  • Look for connections between your dreams: Observe if there are themes, symbols, or situations that are repeated in your dreams.

My most creative moments come when my brain can rest.

~ Megan King ~

2. Visualize your daydreams

Another effective strategy that helps use dreams to enhance creativity is to practice visualization. Close your eyes and recreate the scenarios you traveled through, the characters you met, and the emotions you experienced.

As you immerse yourself in the vividness of your dreams, you will cultivate your ability to imagine. And you’re sure to discover creative solutions to challenges.

3. Invent new stories

Seize the opportunity to become the hero of unique tales. Use your dream experiences as creative fuel to write short stories, screenplays, plays, or comics.

Let your imagination run wild and immerse yourself in the infinite world of possibilities that your dreams provide. Share these stories with your loved ones or feel free to upload them to the web.

4. Create characters

Take advantage of the richness of your dreams to create  out-of-the-ordinary characters. In your dreams, you meet people who don’t exist in the real world, giving you a unique opportunity to bring them to life on paper.

It doesn’t matter if you are not a master painter; with your skills, you can capture their faces. Feel free to add a box with their name and details about their personality to give them an identity of their own.

5. Try dream incubation

Before going to sleep, focus your mind on a specific problem or question you want to solve. Visualize the question clearly and repeat it in the silence of your inner self.

By doing so, you are programming your subconscious to search for answers or solutions while you dream. When you wake up, keep your journal nearby to record any ideas you have received.

Dreams are the engine of creativity

By using your dreams as fuel to enhance your creativity, you open the door to a limitless world of ideas. Keeping a dream journal or practicing visualization techniques awakens the imagination.

Every night will become an opportunity for exploration and experimentation. This nightly creative lab could propel you forward – awaken your inner genuis!

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Barrett, D. (2017). Dreams and creative problem-solving. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1406(1), 64–67.
  • Barrett, D. (2007). An evolutionary theory of dreams and problem-solving. En D. Barrett & P. McNamara (Eds.), The new science of dreaming: Vol. 3. Cultural and theoretical perspectives (pp. 133–153). Praeger Publishers/Greenwood Publishing Group.
  • BBC News Mundo. (19 de diciembre de 2021). El experimento que puso a prueba la técnica de sueño de Salvador Dalí para ser más creativo (y su fascinante resultado). BBC.
  • Dalí, S. (1951). 50 secretos mágicos para pintar. Noguer y Caralt.
  • Fries, A. (2009). Daydreams at work: wake up your creative powers. Capital Books.
  • Hobson, J. A. (1994). El cerebro soñador. Trad. Isabel Vericat. Fondo de Cultura Económica.
  • Lacaux, C., Andrillon, T., Bastoul, C., Idir, Y., Fonteix-Galet, A., Arnulf, I., & Oudiette, D. (2021). Sleep onset is a creative sweet spot. Science advances, 7(50), eabj5866.
  • Marinovic, M., (2006). El papel de los sueños en la creatividad y producción pictórica de artistas visuales chilenos. Aisthesis, (40), 119-147.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.