We all rely on ideas. Ideas for revenue growth. Ideas to attract new users. Ideas to improve customer satisfaction. Ideas to decrease customer churn. So what can you do come 2018 to increase your powers of idea generation? According to a recent study, published in the January 2018 Journal of Business Venturing, the one simple habit you need to increase your powers of idea generation is sleep

Recovery enhances creativity.

A decade ago, research published by the University of Bath's Dimo Dimov demonstrated that creativity is important for becoming an entrepreneur and successful in business. This 2017 research explored a new perspective by investigating how recovery from work stress influences entrepreneurs' daily idea generation, a key aspect of creativity.

Physiological and mental recovery enables the cognitive processes of creative problem-solving. Recovery from work refers to activities that rebuild mental and physiological resources after work and help to recuperate from job stress. Recovery activities might include: meditation, yoga, aerobic activity (e.g. running), napping, etc.

The researchers in this most recent study, operating out of Technische Universität Dresden and Aston University, conducted a diary study with 62 entrepreneurs over 12 days. They measured entrepreneurs' daily creativity and work-related problem-solving pondering after work in evening telephone interviews, and assessed their sleep efficiency objectively through actigraphic devices that entrepreneurs wore on their wrists during the night.

Creativity and sleep are interrelated.

Actigraphy is a non-invasive method of monitoring human rest and activity cycles. A small actigraph unit, also called an actimetry sensor, is worn for a week or more to measure gross motor activity. The unit is usually, in a wristwatch-like package, worn on the wrist.

The actigraphs measured sleep efficiency--the time spent asleep while in bed. This has long been held as a key indicator of good sleep health and sleep quality. Sleep efficiency in this research as defined as an estimate of uninterrupted sleep during the sleep period. It takes into account wakeful moments and related activity. If you are interested in monitoring your sleep efficiency, that feature is offered through many smartwatches and related devices and apps.

Don't leave problems at the office.

The research found:

  • Recovery is an important antecedent of entrepreneurs' creativity.
  • Sleep efficiency enhances entrepreneurs' creativity on the subsequent day.
  • Entrepreneurs who reflect on how to solve problems outside of working hours generate more novel ideas.

The report in question provides multilevel analyses based on 415 daily data points from 62 entrepreneurs which support these findings. The study highlights the critical role of recovery processes for idea generation and the integral role that sleep efficiency plays in recovery.

So if tomorrow is going to be a day in which creativity plays a key role, take a nap, or go to bed early and add a few extra hours to your sleep. The dividends will be tangible.