Wednesday, February 24, 2010

I Hate it When: The Explanation

After reading Rag's post, seeing the responses, and habitually experiencing Rag's exact situation, I noticed there had to be some scientific evidence to just this situation. After all, being both writers and musicians, honing creativity is our number one priority. So there has to be some link to it improving and bubbling as we sleep, otherwise these sleepy revelations wouldn't come so often.

Here ya go:

Most of us have tried sleeping on a difficult problem before and using an elegant experiment, Denise Cai from the University of California in San Diego has shown that this old technique really does have merit to it

In the test, Denise Cai made participants play word association: Giving them three words with a mysterious fourth word that all three have in common. Such as "Cookies", "Hearts", and "Sixteen". With which the fourth word is "sweet".

Or the perfect concoction for "Molestation".

The tests were done at 9AM and 5PM, and the participants were made to rest or nap at 1PM.

After having their slumber and redoing their tests, the ones who attained REM-sleep, the deepest interval of the sleep cycle, did much better at the tests than previously.
Cai thinks that REM sleep catalyses the creative process by allowing the brain to form connections between unrelated ideas...[Her test] strongly suggests that in this case, the benefits of REM sleep lay not in boosting memory or general mental agility, but in specifically allowing the volunteers to create associations between existing ideas. Indeed, many thinkers have defined creativity as exactly that.
And this wouldn't be the first time a revelation was made in sleep. Especially considering many key scientific cornerstones, like the periodic table, came out of a nice little sleep.

Not that we're exactly devising the periodic table.

Though I did realize in my sleep once that the elements sound like Pokemon.

But, as creative people, we do have our very own creative "problems" to solve and "associations" to make.

I'll use one instance of mine as an example. I was trying to create a riff, at that point, with a certain boldness and flair. I couldn't/didn't want to force it, but because of that I constantly drew blanks.

Then, one night, I was dreaming about a supervisor of mine freaking out at work (The whole dream was like watching a TV show muted, by the way). She was coming to a realization that in order to solve her frantic issues at work, she'll need to be bold and prepared.

Somewhere in my brain decided it needed to formulate a soundtrack that best fit this increasingly frantic yet muted situation, and voila, a guitar riff was born. It was as though my brain had created the dream for the purpose of creating the riff to fill it in with.

Basically, REM sleep seems to be the perfect tool for not necessarily forming new ideas, but melding existing ideas and goals together into one harmonized revelation. And it's why our best thoughts come as we sleep.

Doesn't explain all the drooling, though.

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