Sleep is know for being important to creative thinking. But exactly what role REM (Rapid Eye Movement) A period of sleep during which dreaming takes place, characterized by rapid periodic twitching movements of the eye muscles and other physiological changes, such as accelerated respiration and heart rate, increased brain activity, and muscle relaxation. And Non REM Sleep, plays in creative problem solving.
Ron Wolinski is Manager of Simmons Education. Recently, was fortunate to attend a conference titled “Power Sleep” by Dr. James B. Maas of Cornell University. Dr. Maas is one of our country’s leading experts in the science of sleep.
During the conference, Dr. Maas mentioned consequences of shortened sleep. Some of these were: drowsiness, unintended sleep, mood shifts that cause increased irritability, anxiety and depression, decreased social skills and sense of humor, decreased motor performance, decreased cognitive performance causing reduced ability to concentrate and remember, reduced communication and decision skills, reduced ability to handle complex tasks, increased risk taking, and reduced quality of life, creativity and productivity.
” Suppose I give you a creativity puzzle where you have all the information you need to solve it, but you can’t cause your stuck,” says first author Penny Lewis Dphil, a professor at Cardiff University School of Phychology in a release. ” you could think of that as you’ve got all the memories that you need already, but you need to restructure them-make links between the memories that you weren’t linking, integrate things you weren’t integrating.” Studies show this kind of restructuring happens while asleep. Lewis and her Co-authors created a model of what may be happening at any stage, during this process. Lewis’s model proposes that NON-REM sleep helps us organize information into useful categories, compared to REM Sleep (Also where dreaming occurs) helps us to see beyond those categories to discover unexpected connections. According to previous research, memories captured by the hippocampus are replayed during non REM sleep, and we detect information between them and it is stored in the cortex. Because they are in such close communication. Lewis proposes that the hippocampus controls what is replayed. It prefers to replay things that are themed and linked. It encourages you to find those links, and connect. During REM Sleep on the other hand, the hippocampus and the cortex don’t appear near in sync. It is free to replay stored memories in any combination, regardless of whether they are similar. Evidence suggests that waves cause areas of the cortex to randomly activate, and that could trigger memories from a representation of a plan or theory in the form of an outline or model.
So what they propose is if your stuck on a problem that is most noticeable or important, you’ll replay it, the hypothetical part she says is when something else is randomly activated in the cortex, and the element is similar, a link is formed. These unexpected links may be the something new and somehow valuable is formed that are required to solve a problem. Lewis and her Co-authors plan on testing it over a 5-year period. And look forward to sharing the results. We look forward to learning more about how REM and Non REM sleep can change our thinking and our brain. And how important sleep is to our overall well being and how much it plays a part in our creativity.