In the 2011 film Limitless, actor Bradley Cooper portrayed a struggling writer on the verge of losing all that was of personal and professional significance. Then, he conveniently discovered "NZT," a nootropic drug capable of unlocking the full potential of the human brain by boosting one's IQ and mental capacity to the degree of a supercomputer.
Regrettably, the fictional brain fuel that turned a down-on-his-luck scribe into a multi-millionaire and prospective presidential contender doesn't really exist in pill form. But that doesn't mean science is limited in finding a natural way to unlock the limitless potential of the human brain.
Astonishing but true, the vast majority of the human brain remains a mystery to medical researchers. Then again, how much can really be expected of any researcher who is using less than 10% of their brain's capacity? Auspiciously, scientific research continues to unequivocally illustrate the under-appreciated ability of REM sleep to supercharge one's mind.
Rapid eye movement sleep (REM sleep) is an ordinary stage of sleep with extraordinary power to rejuvenate the brain, sharpen mental faculties, and unlock enormous cognitive and creative potential. In fact, for problem solving, nothing is more effective that quality REM sleep.
A study conducted by the University of California San Diego found that the brain makes new connections during REM sleep, which aids problem solving. "REM sleep enhances creativity," says Sara Mednick, Ph.D, an assistant professor of psychiatry at UC San Diego.
And history is rampant with rich examples corroborating that assertion.
Dr. Otto Loewi famously claimed the 1936 Nobel Prize for medicine in response to an experiment he admittedly designed in his sleep.
The creative genius behind Mary Shelley's Frankenstein emerged from the author's slumber. Bram Stoker confessed the same of Dracula's creative origins. Even Paul McCartney's Yesterday was written as the British rocker slept.
Because REM sleep has an unrivalled ability to foster the formation of associative networks in the brain, the medical and scientific communities firmly believe that significantly enhancing sleep will significantly enhance human productivity and potential. But these enhancements are poised to result from innovations in technology, not pharmaceuticals.
It comes as no surprise that a growing number of entrepreneurs and leaders from across the business landscape are striving to make their days more profitably productive by taking sleep more seriously at night.
"There is a direct correlation between the quality of sleep you receive and your productivity at the office," says entrepreneur Colin House.
House is the creator of Sleep Genius, a new mobile application for iOS that was developed following decades of research and designed by experts in neuroscience, sound, and music.
"Sleep Genius is not just another gimmicky white noise app," he says. "It truly helps you attain the most deep and efficient sleep possible and is backed by unprecedented research and neuroscience."
And he's not kidding.
House reveals that clinical trials of Sleep Genius were shown to be 77% effective in improving patients sleep patterns.
Sleep Genius is a secret proprietarycombination of neurosensory algorithms and sounds delivered through scientifically composed musicto create an optimal sleep environment that helps to balance REM and non-REM sleep.
"In the old days," says corporate business and leadership analyst Mike Randazzo, "entrepreneurs attempted to train their bodies to function on minimal sleep. In recent years, they've 'awakened' to the reality that they're actually hurting their chances of expanding their wealth by working to the bone. The guy working 18 hours a day at subpar levels will not be more successful than his alert and well-rested counterpart working half the time."
A 2011 study in the Journal of Neuroscience found that individuals make riskier financial decisions when sleep-deprived.
"Behavioral studies suggest that sleep deprivation-generated impairments in cognition lead to deficits in the overall quality of decision making," the study reads. "More recent studies that involve making decisions under uncertainty have found that sleep-deprived persons tend toward riskier options, mirroring the behavior of patients with medial frontal damage."
Although catching more ZZZs may not conjure entirely limitless brainpower, it will - without question - guard against the consequential ill-adviseddecisions that can and often do result from limited REM sleep.
Fortunately, researchers say, the smartest of the sleep deprived entrepreneurs are turning to technology and not the medicine cabinet. Unlike sleeping pills and cognitive enhancers, both of which have an unfavourable reputation for curtailing critical REM sleep, modern technologies are emerging as the real-life equivalent to the fictitious drug that unlocked Bradley Cooper's Limitless potential.
Dr. Kamran Fallahpour, a clinical psychologist and neuroscientist at New York's Brain Resource Center, says Sleep Genius is the latest high profile example of an "all-natural" and effective remedy for sleeplessness.
Fellow neuroscientist and NASA funded sleep researcher Seth Horowitz, Ph.D. agrees.
"Sleep is not simple unconsciousness," Dr. Horowitz asserts. "It is an extraordinarily complex and critical brain-controlled behavior that is harnessed by Sleep Genius."