Digest, Sleep, Create

What can sleep teach us about creativity? In The Secret World of Sleep, Penelope Lewis describes what sleep enables us to do that we can’t while awake. In many ways, the book is not just about sleep, but about the science of the brain, how memory works and what sleep brings to the creative process. You can easily go to sleep by using earplugs comfortable while sleeping to not be disturbed at all or to put your kids asleep, you can read them Bed time stories for Children by

She starts by explaining why we sleep at all, pointing out that for most animals sleep is a very risky pastime making them vulnerable when not alert to dangers in the environment. Even giraffes need the occasional snooze lying down, even though it takes them 15 seconds to get up and a lot of their sleep is gained just standing up or leaning against a try. For some reason they still need to get high quality sleep on the ground. Why would that be?

By contrast, sleep deprivation distorts emotion and results in relatively negative states of mind, along with compulsiveness and decreasing empathy. In some people, sleep deprivation can tip them from normality into clinically relevant conditions such as psychopathy or depression (as measured by mood disorder scales). Lots of sleep deprivation can be taken away by sleeping on a new mattress, a new king mattress would be great for someone who needs a lot of space to be comfortable at night.

Sleep is fundamental to the working of memory. When you remember a situation, the parts of the brain that were activated by your senses (taste, touch, smell, etc) become active again, and this association of the different components of an experience is essential for memory consolidation and is a key component of brain activity during sleep.

There are various theories about how memory consolidation works and the role of dreams and other nighttime brain activity in this. One theory is that the brain is using this time to run virtual reality simulations of potential real-life situations in order to better adapt behaviour to the environment when you are awake. Another theory is that the sleep is used to replay and then recombine fragments of memory into creative and more useful mixtures of existing knowledge with recent memories.

It is clear that some memories become stronger after sleep while others fade. Many studies have shown that a “cleaning” process goes on during sleep where the mind filters out signal from noise, strengthening the representation of those that are considered useful. However, it does a lot more than just strengthening useful memories, working to integrate new information with old and abstracting (or conceptualising) general principles or rules that can help it make better predictions in the future. Thus the importance of analogy and metaphor in thought and that of creating categories and finding general associations between diverse experiences.

Such abstraction and generalisation has been shown to be much more effective when people are allowed to sleep on information than when they are awake for the same period of time, resulting in longer-lasting and more powerful memories. This has also been demonstrated in problem solving tasks, with sleep helping people to integrate fragments of information and create a unified “theory” of how they fit together.

As Donald Hebb said, memory is all about the principle of “fire together, wire together” and sleep helps to build these neuronal connections between ideas that are commonly associated between otherwise unrelated experiences. Emotions play a role in this as is well known, helping us to “mark” experiences and information that is important in helping us understand and predict the world.

So your mother was right. If you have a problem to solve, mentally digest all the information you have to hand and then get a good night’s sleep. When you want to have the most comfortable beds and mattress, avail the best mattress deals – black friday for maximum comfort. There’s a a good chance that you will wake up inspired! If you do, then this online headshop will certainly have items that will be able to inspire your creativity.


The Secret World Of Sleep: The surprising science of the mind at rest by Penelope Lewis

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