Night brings Counsel (Late Sixteenth-Century)
4th February 2019
If you saw this advert would you be interested?
Scientists have discovered a revolutionary new treatment that makes you live longer. It enhances your memory and makes you more creative. It makes you look more attractive. It keeps you slim and lowers food cravings. It protects you from cancer and dementia. It wards off colds and flu. It lowers your risk of heart attacks and stroke, not to mention diabetes. You’ll even feel happier and less anxious.
The good thing is that it costs nothing!
This is an advert for the benefits of a good night’s sleep according to neuroscientist Matthew Walker in his bestselling book Why we sleep: The new science of sleep and dreams. Walker writes that we literally ‘risk our lives’ through sleep deprivation, so much so, that the WHO (World Health Organisation) has now declared sleep loss an epidemic throughout the industrialised nations.
It seems that getting a good night’s sleep has never been more difficult though. We are routinely interrupted by passing cars, overflying aircraft, the ping of our iPhone and the lights from our constantly illuminated environment. Yet ‘there does not seem to be one major organ within the body, or process within the brain that is not optimally enhanced by sleep’. So getting a good night’s sleep really is very important.
It’s also good for learning and memory and enhances creativity. Sleep provides a time in which the brain tests out and builds connections between vast stores of information. Such activity can bring new insights and moments of ‘breakthrough’ and help make sense of the words ‘sleep on it’, when we face what seems like an intractable problem. We may wake with a new perspective and see a way towards a solution.
Incredibly the melody for one of the most famous songs Yesterday came to Paul McCartney in a dream. It didn’t come out of nowhere, although it may have felt as if it had, but sleep precipitated the creative process. In the same way moments of moral wisdom and insight in many religious stories come through the dreams of individuals.
Night really can bring counsel but perhaps we need to create the conditions for a good night’s sleep first. So develop some good night-time rituals to get ready for sleep, cut down on distractions and importantly switch off all screens and tech!
Perhaps then you can luxuriate in the Sound of silence and welcome darkness as an old friend and a vision softly creeping will leave its seeds while you are sleeping. (Simon and Garfunkel).
Mrs C Crossley
Head of RS