Away with the fairies? Head stuck in the clouds? Daydreamers of the world, stop worrying. Your meandering thoughts are perfectly normal, they may even be the spark that lights a brilliant mind

In the same way, projecting into the future makes us smarter about our choices. "Day­dreaming also has a rehearsal function," says Klinger. "So if something important is coming up, you might play out scenarios of what to do."

The "what if" of daydreaming allows us to go back or forwards in our real or imagined lives and effectively study ourselves. (This kind of learning and rehearsal only works for experiences – it doesn’t help us learn hard facts.)

As mental time travellers, we can review, rehearse and learn to understand our lives as we see fit, without having to waste energy endlessly repeating ourselves. This psychological lack of regard for the chronological clock is part of what makes us human. It happens so instinctively that we often don’t realise we’re doing it: we simply find that we know and understand more and more things about life as we get older. In this sense, daydreams give us wisdom.

Daydreaming is part of a healthy mind – studies show that people with autism or Alzheimer’s disease have problems with daydreaming. In Alzheimer’s, plaques form on the daydreaming centre of the brain.

Daydreams may arrive uncalled, but we can learn to direct them. Almost all of our ambitions start life as daydreams. Paintings, books, buildings and companies all start as a quirky idea in the mind of the creator.

Jackie French is a successful author of children’s books including Diary of a Wombat and A Rose for the Anzac Boys. "As a writer, my job is to daydream nine to five, and all too often at 4am too."

French says any work of fiction is essentially someone’s daydream, "but it’s a daydream that involves hard, repeated work".

She explains, "A daydream can be a simple fantasy – you and Brad Pitt or Sean Connery, a white beach and coconuts for two. The first fantasy that pops into your head is usually a cliché. But the more you think about the fantasy, the more you question it, work out possible plots and motivation, the more rich and original your ideas become. You are essentially creating a world in your mind’s eye – just as you do in your fantasy. But this is a daydream with boots on."

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