An Inc. report explores how artists, writers, and great thinkers have taken advantage of theta waves, which are produced during sleep, to enhance creativity and solve problems.

What Are the Four Brain Waves?

As educator Ned Herrmann explains, brain waves–the “electrical activity emanating from the brain”–occur in four states depending on your level of activity. Herrmann continues on to break down each state by decreasing wave frequency.

At your most active, you generate beta waves (like, if you were in the middle of a job interview). When you’re relaxed–like when you’ve finally wrapped that big project and can take a breath–your brain switches to alpha waves. Now, jumping ahead for a minute, the fourth stage is delta and it’s when you’re in a deep sleep.

I skipped over the third stage, theta, because that’s the one that’s best for problem solving. Herrmann says:

“Individuals who do a lot of freeway driving often get good ideas during those periods when they are in theta…This can also occur in the shower or tub or even while shaving or brushing your hair. It is a state where tasks become so automatic that you can mentally disengage from them. The ideation that can take place during the theta state is often free flow and occurs without censorship or guilt.”

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