The first step, says Ellis, is to write down your burning question before bed to strengthen your subconscious. "Kind of a general question; not too specific," she notes. Next, try to record all of your dreams for the next couple of nights (if you're having trouble remembering, check out our guide here). Interpret them and "treat them like they are an answer," explains Ellis. "Often times, you get a creative response, something relevant that you would not have thought of when you woke up normally."
This is because your dreams can tap into your subconscious and help you deal with intense emotions. Ellis notes, "Dreams tend to take in the really heightened emotion we feel during the day and dampen or calm it down." When it comes to solving a problem, your dreams can wade through the emotions and unconscious biases that you may not be familiar with during waking hours.
It's a simple but profound practice: in fact, countless creative people (think inventors and artists) turn to their dreams when they get hold of a problem. Apparently, Dmitri Mendeleev (who created the periodic table) saw all the elements organized in a dream, and Albert Einstein came up with the theory of general relativity after dreaming about a field of cows. Paul McCartney of the Beatles composed the entire melody for the song "Yesterday" in a dream.
That's not to say you can drift off and expect to wake up to an Einstein-sized Eureka moment. As Ellis says, your dreams can help you take that extra step, especially if you're experiencing a creative block. In the case of Einstein, of course, he thought about science during the day, but maybe this dream was what he needed to connect the dots. "The dream process brings this creative leap," adds Ellis. "Once you have all the background information you need and you're dealing with a problem, you can get answers from outside the box."