Sleeping on a problem ‘best way to solve it’

Sleeping on a problem ‘best way to solve it’

Researchers say distracting oneself or,putting off the issue until the next day,helps the brain come up with the ideal solution.

It may sound unusual,but sleeping on a problem may be the best way to solve it,says a study.

Researchers in the Netherlands have found that distracting oneself for a few minutes with something else or,even better putting off the issue until the next day,helps the brain come up with the ideal solution.

They have based their findings on a series of experiments which showed that people who consciously struggle with a difficult question are more likely to get the wrong answer,compared to those who put it on the mental backburner.

In the tests,students were asked to choose the best models from four imaginary makes of car. Each one had 12 different features but two had better road holding and fuel economy. After reading about each car,one group of students was asked to make an instant choice.


Another group carried out a second test which was designed to occupy their minds for five minutes before making their decision. Volunteers in that group,dubbed “unconscious thinkers”,were more likely to select the best car,the findings revealed.

According to the researchers,this is because their subconscious minds were given the time to weigh up all the pros and cons. “Putting it off” could also work for someone in a dilemma about a major financial commitment,they say.

Lead researcher Maarten Bos of Radboud University,said the experiments proved that forgetting about a decision often produced the best results,especially if it involved a complicated issue.

The students who did the best were the ones who had been distracted and were therefore unable to “consciously think” about the cars.

He said: “Unconscious thought produces better decisions than when people decide immediately. Although in our current experiments participants did not actually sleep on their decision,the benefit of a period of rest is clear.

“It allows us to differentiate between the vital and the irrelevant aspects. When your grandparents advised you to sleep on a decision first,they may have intuitively sensed the benefits of letting it rest to get a clear grasp of one’s priorities. The research shows our grandparents were right.”

The study is to be published in an upcoming edition of the ‘Journal of Consumer Psychology’.