Most people, Dr. Ellenbogen says, think of the sleeping brain as similar to a computer that has “gone to sleep” — it does nothing productive. Wrong. Sleep enhances performance, learning and memory. Most unappreciated of all, sleep improves creative ability to generate aha! moments and to uncover novel connections among seemingly unrelated ideas.

[…]

Some sort of incubation period, in which a person leaves an idea for a while, is crucial to creativity. During the incubation period, sleep may help the brain process a problem.

[…]

Dr. Ellenbogen’s research at Harvard indicates that if an incubation period includes sleep, people are 33 percent more likely to infer connections among distantly related ideas, and yet, as he puts it, these performance enhancements exist “completely beneath the radar screen.” In other words, people are more creative after sleep, but they don’t know it.

Here’s the science to the creative benefits of sleep, aptly called "the greatest creative aphrodisiac." Decades earlier, T. S. Eliot championed the notion of "idea incubation" and even longer ago, Thomas Edison used power-naps as his secret weapon

Pair with the science of what happens when you sleep and how it affects your every waking moment.

(via explore-blog)

(via explore-blog)

This video is adorable and informative. The story from Brain Pickings is also great. Till Roenneberg discusses the concept of social time (which I have previously written about from a cultural perspective). Roenneberg also discusses “social jet lag”, as a way to debunk the stigma attached to people who sleep in later than the norm. He argues that people in different social groups benefit from keeping to their distinctive sleep routines. Societies force people to observe particular sleep-wake patterns, but compliance can be socially harmful for some people and it can be detrimental to their health:

This myth that early risers are good people and that late risers are lazy has its reasons and merits in rural societies but becomes questionable in a modern 24/7 society. The old moral is so prevalent, however, that it still dominates our beliefs, even in modern times. The postman doesn’t think for a second that the young man might have worked until the early morning hours because he is a night-shift worker or for other reasons. He labels healthy young people who sleep into the day as lazy — as long sleepers. This attitude is reflected in the frequent use of the word-pair early birds and long sleepers [in the media]. Yet this pair is nothing but apples and oranges, because the opposite of early is late and the opposite of long is short….

I am often asked whether we cannot get used to given working hours merely through discipline and by confining our sleep habits to certain times. The assumption inherent in this question is that the human body clock can synchronize to social cues. I tend to find that any such questioner, who usually also displays a somewhat disdainful tone towards the weakness of late chronotypes, is an early type — someone who has never experienced the problems associated with the [desynchronized] sleep-wake behavior of late chronotypes.

He’s a man after my own heart! There’s even a bell-shaped curve and everything. Read the whole story - fascinating.

Via Brain Pickings.

40 Facts About Sleep You Probably Didn’t Know… (Or Were Too Tired To Think About)

By The National Sleep Research Project, ABC Australia.

My favourites are below, read the rest after the jump.

-The record for the longest period without sleep is 18 days, 21 hours, 40 minutes during a rocking chair marathon. The record holder reported hallucinations, paranoia, blurred vision, slurred speech and memory and concentration lapses.

- It’s impossible to tell if someone is really awake without close medical supervision. People can take cat naps with their eyes open without even being aware of it.

- Anything less than five minutes to fall asleep at night means you’re sleep deprived. The ideal is between 10 and 15 minutes, meaning you’re still tired enough to sleep deeply, but not so exhausted you feel sleepy by day.

- One of the best predictors of insomnia later in life is the development of bad habits from having sleep disturbed by young children.

- The continuous brain recordings that led to the discovery of REM (rapid eye-movement) sleep were not done until 1953, partly because the scientists involved were concerned about wasting paper.

- Dreams, once thought to occur only during REM sleep, also occur (but to a lesser extent) in non-REM sleep phases. It’s possible there may not be a single moment of our sleep when we are actually dreamless.

- REM dreams are characterised by bizarre plots, but non-REM dreams are repetitive and thought-like, with little imagery - obsessively returning to a suspicion you left your mobile phone somewhere, for example.

- Certain types of eye movements during REM sleep correspond to specific movements in dreams, suggesting at least part of the dreaming process is analagous to watching a film

- Some scientists believe we dream to fix experiences in long-term memory, that is, we dream about things worth remembering. Others reckon we dream about things worth forgetting - to eliminate overlapping memories that would otherwise clog up our brains.

- Dreams may not serve any purpose at all but be merely a meaningless byproduct of two evolutionary adaptations - sleep and consciousness.

Read more

Why Do We Dream? By V Sauce.