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Why ‘Sleep on It’ Is Our Most Useful Advice for Learning

It’s one of humanity’s oldest cliches. Educators keep ignoring it

Junaid Mubeen
Mar 4, 2018 · 4 min read
Illustration: Getty Images

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“Sleep on it” would pass as folk wisdom, except that it heralds from some of the most creative thinkers of past and recent times and is now reinforced by neuroscience.

Responding to Hadamard, Albert Einstein spoke of the “combinatory play” that is “the essential feature in productive thought,” concluding: It seems to me that what you call full consciousness is a limit case which can never be fully accomplished.” No wonder that George Polya, in his classic How to Solve It, advised maths students to “take counsel of your pillow” when caught in the web of a problem.

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