Creativity and the Work of Sleep

By Jennifer Simpson

Stephen King famously said he dreamed his novel Misery while asleep on a plane. Composer Richard Wagner reported  that his famous opera Tristan and Isolde came to him in a dream. And Vincent van Gogh said “I dream my painting and I paint my dream.”

Whether we remember our or not, our brains are working while we .  So says Kat Duff, author of The Secret Life of Sleep, a book that explores the human experience of sleep. “Anything we are puzzling about by day, our brains are working on it at night.”

There are two modes of sleep:  , and .  During deep sleep, Duff says, we completely let go of our preconceptions. “It’s like our minds tap into a larger pool of information than when we are awake because when we are awake we have to deal with what is in front of us,” says Duff. “Sleep allows us to sense what is in the air, not necessarily what is said or done.”

In The Secret Life of Sleep Duff relates an example from her own life when she was in junior high. “I woke from a dream quivering with rage at my father for reasons unknown to me,” writes Duff. Up until then, she had always thought of her father as the perfect dad, but after that dream she began to notice what her subconscious already knew:  the way he dominated the dinner table conversations, how he ignored her brother, and her idealization of her father began to fade.

During dream sleep, our brains work with the emotional leftovers from the day. Dream sleep is where our brains make new connections.

In her book, Duff cites work from nineteenth-century French professor Hervey de Saint-Denys, who recorded thousands of his dreams.  He noted that in dreams, the mind engages in an internal dialogue with itself to work on a problem, or it presents itself a collage of images. “It is like working a jigsaw puzzle, turning the pieces around, trying to fit them into empty spaces, laying them on top of others,” writes Duff.

Deep sleep and dream sleep nurture our by revealing to us everything we can’t see during our waking hours.

Tags:  Creativity Deep Sleep Dream Sleep Dreams Memory Sleep

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