Some believe dreams are our imaginations at work, while others maintain that dreams are nothing more than a basic brain reflex, generated by the brainstem - whose function is to control sleep. Still others, like Deirdre Barrett - in her book, "The Committee of Sleep: How Artists, Scientists, and Athletes Use Dreams for Creative Problem-Solving - and How You Can, Too" - believe dreams can solve problems, and produce masterpieces of literature, art, music, scientific discoveries, and more.
Barrett, a Harvard psychologist, describes dreaming as your mind thinking in more of a heightened state than when you are fully conscious, and proposes the practice of "dream incubation" to use dreams to for problem solving and creation. People can dream solutions for any subject (according to the author), however they're most effective in instances where visualization is key to solving the problem, and also when thinking beyond conventional solutions is required to tackle the issue at hand. There are many in the psychological community who subscribe to Barrett's theory, with some variations on technique. Below are some steps you can take to use dreams to solve problems.
When you are relaxed in your bedroom before you slumber, consider your problem or desired outcome. Focus specifically on what the crux of your problem is. Either ask yourself a question, or make a request with your goal in mind.
Jot the question or request down. Be clear and simple so your brain can easily process it with no confusion. Then ponder this question or request for several minutes, and then set down the piece of paper in a journal on your nightstand (a dream journal), or place it under your pillow and go to sleep.
Relax, acknowledge, and trust that your subconscious mind will be able to take over while you are asleep and figure it out. This act gives your conscious mind permission to let go of the issue so it can "shut down" and get some rest.
When you wake up from a dream - no matter what time it is - write it down immediately in your dream journal. Use as many details as you can recall, as quickly as you can, to log the dream. Go back to sleep
Finally, don't get impatient. The answer may be immediate when you wake again, or it could take days, weeks or months for a solution to be revealed to your conscious mind.