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The role of sleep and dreaming

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The Twenty Four Hour Mind

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Sleep is good for us. Friends tell us to sleep on big decisions. Doctors give us the classic advice of taking two aspirins and calling in the morning. But where does the idea of sleep being beneficial both for the mind and body come from? Scientist Rosalind Cartwright, author of The Twenty Four Hour Mind: The Role of Sleep and Dreaming in Our Emotional Lives (Oxford University Press, 2010) skillfully weaves decades of research to build a thorough case for the importance of sleep and dreaming. She posits that sleep aids in regulating emotions and processing waking life experiences. As the different stages of sleep occur, negative emotions are down regulated while conscious thought and feelings are replayed and related to memory throughout sleep and dreams. The images we see in dreams represent the interaction between recent emotional experience and associated images. If we get a good night’s sleep allowing the process run its course, our thinking, feelings and our sense of self and identity are affected. We wake up emotionally well balanced and in a calmer frame of mind.

Cartwright establishes a foundation for her theories on the purpose of sleep and dreaming with the history of sleep research and deftly incorporates an elaborate collection of dreams from recent divorcees, the consequences of insomnia, and depression. Still more enthralling are the chapters devoted to sleepwalking and real life consequences of REM disorder. Cartwright shows how sleep disorders can disrupt a person’s emotional system by showcasing detailed accounts of sleepwalking violence cases where she served as an expert witness.

The Twenty Four Hour Mind offers a convincing argument for the theory of emotional regulation through sleep and dreams. Cartwright illustrates how the mind is continuously active, how new learning is retained through dreaming and the role sleep plays in our self concept and identities. Even if you're not particularly interested in sleep disorders or NREM parasomnias, this books offers a fresh perspective on dreaming and the unexplored areas of sleep research.

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