Problem Solving using the Committee of Sleep

Life is about problem solving. You just conquered a problem. Before you have a chance to lay back and enjoy your peace of mind, another problem is calling to be solved. Deirdre Barrett Ph.D, who teaches at Harvard, wrote a book about how dreams can be used as tools for problem solving.

problem solving
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The book I am talking about today is called: The Committee of Sleep, how Artists, Scientists and Athletes Use Dreams for Creative Problem Solving-and How You can Too. (aff.)

Deirdre herself could have used some problem solving at her presentation on the 2016 International Conference about Dreams: “Film Dream Scenes, A Neurological View”.  The film fragments she selected would not play. Somebody in the audience called: “Don’t worry Deirdre, you are going to wake up soon”.

The Committee of Sleep, how Artists, Scientists and Athletes Use Dreams for Creative Problem Solving-and How You can Too is divided into nine chapters and a conclusion. The first part of the book contains four chapters on art. Two chapters are about imagery: they contain stories about dreams from artists and film makers. People who tune in to their dreams as a natural source of inspiration. Chapter three is about dreams that inspired literature and the last chapter about art is on how music and dreams are intertwined.

The second part of the book contains two chapters on research. One about math and the other one about inventions made possible by dreams.

The third part of the book is devoted to other dreams. One chapter is about the body. The other chapter is more political oriented, about how Ghandi dreamed his way into peace.

The final chapter is dedicated to brainteasers and how dreams can give exclusive insights into complicated patterns.

Problem solving and dreams

I am going to do some cherry picking, otherwise the review would be too long.

Did you know for instance, that only 1,5 % of 5000 dreams gathered by Hall and van de Castle contained a reference to music or sounds? I dream about music all the time, so that really surprised me.
Music = emotions. Dreams are packed with emotional symbols. The book mentions Paul McCartney’s Yesterday, but you probably know already he first heard the melody in his dreams.

problem solving

He was not quite sure it was his own music. He wrote the keys down and played it immediately after waking up. He was teased about it by the other Beatles. “I got made fun of because of it a little bit,” Paul recalls. I remember George saying, “Blimey, he’s always talking about ‘Yesterday’; you’d think he was Beethoven or somebody”.

Robert Moss often uses a cinema as a metaphor of describing dreams. He says that he visits the cinema of the night and recalls his dreams that way. Deirdre reminds us in this book that the first cinemas were referred to as : “Dream Places”.  There are several references to directors who have used dreams in films. Hitchcock’s cooperation with Salvador Dali in Spellbound is the most famous one.


Famous but not successful: Dali never worked again on an art project that he could not have a final say about. Hitchcock did not use Dali’s insights all the time and left images out, a thing that deeply insulted Salvador Dali (If you want to know more about the dream methods Dali used to get inspiration read this Mindfunda).

Conclusion: to buy or not to buy?

This is a tough one. It is a good book, filled with remarkable stories. Even if you are knowledgeable about dreams, you will find stories in here that are inspirational and that you never heard of.

On the other hand: there are a lot of well-known stories in the book; Kekule and the benzene ring, Banting and insulin, McCartney and Yesterday…

Another thing I missed: there is no hands-on instruction how a reader can use dreams to solve problems. In my eyes that would have been a valuable chapter.

If you want a good book about dreams, filled with magical stories, this is the one for you. If you want a practical guide to use dreams for problem solving -for example by incubating dreams- this is not the best book to buy.

By the way: Mindfunda will offer audio dream incubations very soon. At a reasonable price you will be able to download mp3’s on incubating dreams that tune into subjects like:

  • Tree of Life,
  • Goddess of Dreams Hecate,
  • Full Moon,
  • Connecting with the Dream maker,
  • Ancestors and lots more.


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