Written by Dr. Caroline Leaf
We know that God has designed our brains and bodies to our advantage. Well, sleep – including little naps during the day when you are tired – is one of our greatest advantages. It has a multiplicity of benefits: our brains and bodies restore; our systems reboot; our processing and creativity ability increases; our chances of making bad decisions decrease; we can even find solutions to new problems whilst our memories and intelligence improve! And these are just a few of the benefits!
The research I have done over the years has shown that sleep plays a crucial role in memory development. In fact, new research from the University of Notre Dame shows that going to sleep shortly after learning new material is extremely beneficial for memory and sorting through problems. In fact the researchers advise that it would be a good thing to rehearse any information you need to remember just before going to bed—your mind is then able to tell your sleeping brain what to consolidate.
Unfortunately, the converse is also true. If you rehearse problems as negative before you go to sleep, this will affect your rest and you will lose out on all these amazing benefits. It is thus really important as you go to sleep to “bring all thoughts into captivity to Christ Jesus” (2 Corinthians 10:5-7) so the Holy Spirit can work in your mind to produce wisdom and peace, and give you answers and solutions.! We have to do our part by inviting the Holy Spirit to do His part.
Indeed science, as always, is catching up with the Bible when it comes to sleep! Many times God put His people to sleep in the Bible, and when they woke up great things had happened in their lives. Adam especially gained a major benefit from sleep…when he woke up he was minus one rib but plus one woman!
Based on my research over the years I developed an applied neuroscientific process for learning called the “Switch on your brain with the 5-Step Learning Process® process” (see Intellectual Development for more information or you can order the DVD/Workbook series). Part of my 5-step Switch on your brain® process is cycling through the sequence of memory building (staggering learning episodes across time). An integral component of this part is going through the work for an exam, test or presentation just before you go to sleep. This leads to a greater degree of recollection, deeper understanding and the integration and more effective application of knowledge – up to 35-75% improvement!. Bottom line is that God has designed our brain’s to learn while we sleep.
Sleep is also important for regulating emotional responses. My research over the years has also shown a strong link between learning, emotion and sleep. Moreover, recent studies done at Harvard show that the sleeping brain seems to calculate what is most important about an experience and selects what is best for storage. If toxic emotions, such as worry and stress, are dominant when going to sleep, they will be selected and built as a dominant memory. So whatever we think about the most just before sleep becomes “tagged” and “flagged’ as priority for consolidation in our brains, impacting the next day.
How you wake up in the morning is thus very much determined by how you go to sleep the night before. Therefore, the success of your day is influenced by your sleep patterns. Many people tell me they battle to sleep. The ability of our mind to think is fashioned after God’s own image, and hence is exponentially powerful. Put your mind into God’s control at night when you go to sleep and watch the difference the next day. Never forget, whatever we think about the most grows!
For more information on dreaming see To Dream - Or Not To Dream?
Watch a short video clip on Toxic Dreams for more on toxic dreams
Dr Caroline Leaf shows you how to overcome toxic dreams in both The Gift In You Hardcover edition and the Who Switched Off My Brain revised Hardcover edition.