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New book explores evidence for the old adage ‘sleep on a problem’

11 Sep 2013

University neuroscientist studied the very latest research into the night-time brain

Sleep on a problem

The role of sleep in processing our waking life and making sense of difficult emotions and experiences has been little understood and disputed amongst scientists for many years.

But in a new book University neuroscientist Dr Penny Lewis explores the very latest research into the night-time brain to understand the real benefits of sleep, and why the old adage to ‘sleep on a problem’ could have real scientific evidence behind it.

Dr Lewis, who runs the Sleep and Memory Lab in the School of Psychological Sciences, explores how, while our body rests, the brain practices tasks it learned during the day, replays traumatic events to mollify them, and forges connections between distant concepts. She believes that by understanding the roles that the nocturnal brain plays in our waking life, we can improve the relationship between the two, and even boost creativity and become smarter.

In ‘The Secret World of Sleep: The Surprising Science of the Mind at Rest’, Dr Lewis answers questions such as what is the evolutionary purpose of sleep and how are memories created during sleep and can we use this to aid learning? She also looks at:

  • Why do we dream and why is it important?
  • How do depression and PTSD affect sleep?
  • Why do we need less sleep as we get older?
  • Can sleeping on a problem really help us solve it?
  • Why are there ‘good sleepers’ and ‘bad sleepers’ and what can we do to improve our sleep?

Far from switching off during the night, the brain moves through a complex and highly structured pattern of activities while you slumber. Dr Lewis’s work offers an in-depth look at the sleeping brain, and explains why lack of sleep leads to dulled senses, impaired decision making, low moods, poor memory and even an altered moral compass. The book also offers a guide to good practice for sleeping and how to help yourself sleep better.

  • The Secret World of Sleep: The Surprising Science of the Mind at Rest published by Palgrave Macmillan