Sleep and the Creative Mind

Like many creative people, I don’t find sleep easily.  This is a common theme among those for whom their mind is their instrument and as I lay in bed last night starting into the darkness, trying not to think of the latest crazy thing to do next to add to my list of projects, a thought slipped into mind I believe is worth sharing.

116 amLast week there was a Horizon special on the BBC regarding insight and creativity, the latest theories in neuroscience.  For those in the UK, or for those visiting, here is a link to the show on iPlayer.  One of the theories put forth is that moments of insight, clarity, epiphany or EUREKA! moments seem to occur when the visual cortex is not being stimulated.  They suggested that to stimulate creativity you should put yourself in an environment where you aren’t visually stimulated.  One piece of advice is to ensure you don’t have anything resembling a face or to avoid being around people too as our minds are hardwired to pattern match faces.

For years I’ve wondered why my mind goes into overdrive as soon as my head hits the pillow and I’d always assumed it is related to environment.  When I lived with my parents, at University and for years afterwards in shared houses my room was also my study and living room.  The idea that spending so much time, active and awake, in the same room you sleep in has long been suggested as a link to not being able to switch off.

I’ve also lost count of the number of times I’ve been sat on the sofa, in a bright room, watching people on television and find myself falling asleep.  Five minutes later when I hit the sack, my mind is running a mile a minute.

As I lay in the dark last night attempting slumber, with little to no light in my room and nothing to stimulate my visual cortex it occurred to me that the darkness itself may be the cause of my creativity and of my sleepless nights.  The question is, if true then how to avoid this state of mind?  If the sight of faces can subdue the creative process then I’m wondering if a randomised slideshow of faces could be the antidote.  My reasoning is that if the mind automatically pattern matches faces then a series of randomised portraits would constantly activate these areas of the brain and may assist in quieting the creative areas of the mind.

Hell, it’s worth a try.

    • I’ve not tried a proper slideshow yet but last night did a search for faces online and started at them for a while. Not sure if it was the faces or just the act of focusing on something but it seemed to help. All anecdotal evidence, granted. 🙂

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