Research shows more to sleep than just rest
I had someone tell me they never made a big decision without first “sleeping on it.”
There may now be scientific evidence that is a good idea, at least if you are finding it difficult to make up your mind.
It is also a good idea if you are trying to work through a difficult problem.
The work of two researchers on sleep and dreams was recently reported on by NBCNews.com. The two — Erin Wamsley and Matthew Wilson — have been trying to discover the secrets of why we dream about things that sometimes seem strange to us.
What they found was that it is apparently a way for our inner mind to work through our life experiences and solve problems.
Wamsley used human test subjects, and Wilson used rats. Yes, rats dream, too, as do other animals, as many of us have probably seen in our pets.
Wamsley and her fellow researchers at Beth Israel Medical Center and Harvard University found that their human subjects were able to work out how to get through a video game maze while in deep sleep and get improved scores, even though they did not remember doing so. They in effect learned how to beat the maze while sleeping. But trying to work it out while awake didn't improve their performance.
Wilson, a neuroscientist at MIT, found rats did the same thing. They were able to better move though a maze after sleeping.
This doesn't surprise me. Over the years, when faced with solving a problem, I have often found a solution comes to me in a dream or after I awake. I thought it was just because my mind was at rest and better able to sort through the various options.
But perhaps what was happening was that my mind was not really at rest, but actually the reverse. It was actively working through a problem and “learning” ways to deal with it based on past experience.
It has also been reported by some innovators and scientists that their best ideas came to them in their sleep. They had a “eureka” moment that had until then eluded them.
It is also claimed that Alexander the Great was able to map out his military campaigns in his sleep. Maybe an example of solving the maze?
Similarly, Russian chemist Dmitri Mendeleev reportedly “saw” the first Periodic Table of Elements in a dream in the 1860s. Updated versions of the table are still in use. Non-chemists likely consider the table to be a “maze.”
Mathematicians, scientists, musicians, authors and others have all claimed to have been given insight in their dreams.
The mind — particularly the mind at sleep — remains something of a mystery. But sleep researchers are trying to peal away the layers to gain insight.
Who knows, maybe the key breakthrough will come to them in their dreams.
Terry Ross is director of the Yuma Sun's News and Information Center. Email: email@example.com. Telephone: 539-6870.