The Goldilocks Factor

You remember the story of Goldilocks and the three bears, that sassy little miss who made herself at home in the three bears house and:

  • Sampled porridge—too hot, too cold, just right—and gobbled it all up.
  • Tested chairs—too big, too small, just right—and ends up breaking it.

Tired after leaving a wave of destruction in her wake, she heads upstairs and tries the beds—too hard, too soft, just right—and falls asleep.

What I want to know is what really happens between Point A (falls asleep) and Point B when baby bear exclaims, “Someone’s been sleeping in my bed and she’s still there!” Not with Goldilocks, but with all the rest of us during slumber…

There’s a wide brushstroke of speculation regarding what actually takes place when we sleep:

  • Some people feel that dreams are just that—dreams. And sleep is just that—sleep.
  • Others feel that we leave our body when we sleep; that we experience tests, receive instruction, and interact with other people in previous, current, and future time periods.

Where do you go and what do you do when you’re sound asleep?

Interesting Side Note: A survey conducted by the American Cancer Society concluded that people who sleep 6 hours or less per night, or who sleep 9 hours or more, had a death rate 30 percent higher than those who regularly slept 7 to 8 hours. Even those who slept 6 hours or less who otherwise had no health problems had death rates 1.8 times higher than those who slept “normal” hours.



55 thoughts on “The Goldilocks Factor

  1. Where I go and what I do while I am sleeping Laurie is often a wild adventure in the absurd. For example, the other night in my sleep I was examining my toenails and deciding if I needed to give them a trim. Since I didn’t have my glasses on, my big toe became the size of a water melon so that it was easy for me to see. I never did find the toenail clippers.

  2. I had heard those statistics before, and I wonder what they really mean. For instance, is sleeping 9 or more hours harmful in and of itself? Or is the increase in early death because sleeping more is a symptom of depression, and chronic depression/stress bring with them a whole host of other issues, such as heart trouble? I guess no one can say, but it’s interesting to consider!

  3. I don’t know where I go when I’m asleep, but with some of the wild dreams I have, I suspect it’s to another level of existance where lessons are learned and problems of the day can be solved.

  4. Really interesting post Laurie. I wonder what the stats say about people like Winston Churchill and Maggie Thatcher who only slept for four hours and less. I’m not sure where I go when I sleep, but I do know that some of the best decisions I’ve made have come out of insights that have come during times of sleep. May not make sense, but that’s my experience.

  5. I get some of my best ideas in my sleep. I used to wake up looking for the paper I had written, art I had created, food I had prepared — all in my dreams. They were so real I was sure I had actually made something tangible.

  6. I sometimes wonder how eight hours of sleep can be beneficial as I dream every night and wake up more stressed out and exhausted than when I went to bed! I am always so relieved when morning comes to realize it was “only” a nightmare, although sometimes those images stay with me all day. Somebody asked me recently if I was afraid to fall asleep knowing what was coming. But no, it seems normal to me and apparently it is something my brain needs to do… but it would be interesting to find out why.

  7. When I am healing my body, I often sleep about 9 to 10 hours a night and sometimes a nap during the day – it works “well” for me. I know I do not function as well when I get less than 8 hours per night. Sleep is rarely a problem for me.
    When I am working on making a decision I find it vital to sleep on it, because I am sure that there is creative potential and connections taking place during the time the body is stilled.

    I find waking up very difficult. This morning I was dreaming about a fluffy white kitten curled up by my chin and I needed to stay still to allow it to sleep a bit longer …and then deer arrived in the yard and ZIP started barking and the day began 2 hours early!!!

  8. I, too, have had many an insight and solved challenge in my sleep. During sleep, I have met up with others and had heartfelt conversations that changed the dynamics of “real life” situations. And I still don’t know how all of that works. But I love the results! 🙂

  9. some nights I sleep…and some nights I don’t
    some mornings I am more tired than when I went to sleep
    and some mornings I feel as if I have been on a great trip….

    I like the mornings when I have an answer to a question I asked…

    This is a wonderful thought thinking post Laurie…! Thank you!
    Take Care

      • I think more of Alice’s reflection than Goldilocks ….
        I always enjoy reading your thoughts here…sometimes
        words just fall about though when I want to say something else…

      • it does tend to send me down more than one rabbit hole LOLs…but then the journey begins finding my way back out ….

  10. I am a world-class sleeper most nights, but in recent years sometimes have more trouble sleeping. If I start meditating on awareness and then try to sleep 9 times out of 10 the energy zings stronger than the desire to sleep, alas, alas. And we mustn’t forget the buzzing mosquitoes which are impairing rest as well. Shame on this crazy mosquito year!

    • Kathy – The mosquitos are so BIG this year that I’m fairly confident Illinois, Wisconsin, and Michigan are in a break-neck race to see who can claim it first to be their state bird!

  11. Thank you for this fascinating post. I regularly get nine hours of sleep each night. I’ll have to try and break that bad habit–and the list grows longer. : )
    Many times I’ve woken–in the middle of the night–put pen to paper and written entire short stories. So I think I’m experiencing more than sleep. Or, maybe, my critic is still sleeping, allowing my muse to have fun. Uh…

  12. Oddly enough, the only dreams I seem to remember with any clarity are the one that happen when I am napping and they never seem to mean a great deal, usually just me observing something. The dreams I used to have of flying don’t come anymore. I used to fly quite a bit like Wendy, Robin and The Boys. I wish I still could.

  13. Laurie, thanks for the interesting facts. Glad I usually sleep 7-8 hours. While I rest my Logical Green, my Brain Blue Brain Creative Thinking takes over and offers me grand ideas and wonderful creative problem solutions!

  14. Hi Laurie

    How long have you got ???

    Right now I am reading a book by Ray Kurzweil “How to create a mind”. There are 98 Episodes to “The brain science podcast”, all of which I have listened to, I spent several months working in a neurophysiology lab in 1975, and have read thousands of articles since, and a few dozen books since. My Kindle in sitting atop a book-stack on my beside table that includes “The Oxford companion to Philosophy” and “The Oxford companion to Consciousness”.

    It seems that what happens in brain is that our brains create a model of the world that is informed and entrained by sense data, and by past experience and by the percepts and concepts we have (most of which we absorb unconsciously from “culture”).

    It seems that what we experience as reality is not actually reality, but is rather the model of reality that our brains create. Under normal circumstances that model is slightly predictive in nature, being between a tenth and a third of a second ahead of reality, to allow for all of the delays in firing of nerves and processing of information and sending out instructions to body to move.

    When we sleep, several things happen.
    When we are awake, our internal model is kept entrained with reality by input from our senses, and the outputs of our choices are sent to our muscles etc.
    When we are asleep, there is no input from the senses to keep the model entrained to reality, and the outputs are normally disconnected from our muscles (but sometimes that inhibition doesn’t stop everything, and sometimes we “twitch” to our dreams – our dogs do this frequently).

    Without input from the senses, our internal model of reality is free to go where-ever our subconscious processes send it. Thus, in our dreaming, we are able to explore any of the scenarios that are of concern to us at a subconscious level. Dreams can give us very powerful insights into many aspects of our subconscious reality, and through that to the wider reality in which we live.

    So what we get to experience in our dreams is very much related to the schemas or modes of interpretation that have available to us. Thus if we have beliefs about things like gods and angels, then those things are part of our experience. They can be a part of our personal reality, without ever being in the objective physical reality, and as none of us have any direct connection to physical reality, there is no way to be completely certain about anything.

    The thing to get, is that there is no direct experiential difference between dreams and reality from the perspective of awareness. From the perspective of our personal awareness, all we have of reality is the model that our brains produce for us. The only way we can judge between dreams and reality is by our ability to find consistency in experience.

    It seems that the reality of being human is far stranger than any fiction of ages past.

    If you can think of a sort of dream scenario, I have probably experienced it, or something close to it. My subconscious seems to have few boundaries. Fortunately, I don’t remember most of the dreams, and am able to maintain reasonable confidence about what in my memories are the result of dreams, and what is the result of real experience.

    And there is another aspect of brain that adds confusion to the mix. It seems that when we recall a memory, we destroy it, so we have to lay it down again. Thus our memories can change in subtle and not so subtle ways over time. This seems to be in large measure why the retelling of highly emotionally charged experiences allows us to lessen the emotional attachment with the retelling, as there is always aspects of the current context of being that are laid down when the memories are re-lain. (Freud was onto something, just not even close to what he thought.)

    Great question!

    • Ted – I was hoping you’d swing by and throw in your two-cents. I’m not disappointed! I especially enjoyed learning that our brains have a (I’ll say “survival type instinct”) means to lessen emotional attachment to memories through re-telling. It’s interesting you should bring that up as I’m currently writing about a window of time between 7-21 years of age — and you’re absolutely right 🙂

  15. I don’t remember my dreams very often, but when I do, I really enjoy them–typically. On that rare occasion when I am aware the dream was troubling, I do pay attention. I so rarely remember them, so if I do, I suppose they mean something! I do sleep very well, however, and deep. I’m thankful. My husband never has (not just since getting older) and so many of my friends express great frustration that they don’t sleep well. I’m glad to know I’m definitely in the 7-8 hours of regular sleep, but it always has concerned me that my husband is more like 5–and at times through the years has been less than that! Yet he dreams very vividly and almost always can remember them!

    Thank you for the retweet, Laurie. I’m not very competent with Twitter and never seem to be sure how to thank you via that method. I do need to learn. 🙂 Debra

  16. Sleep is very important to me. It’s when I come up with story ideas. Sometimes, I think I time travel, going back to places where I grew up, places that don’t change in my mind, always the same configuration, despite upgrades and renovations. I usually visit with family that’s passed on (Mom, Dad, & my grandparents) during those dreams. I do have others where I’m flying, but the moment I realize how bizarre it is to be looking down on things, gravity takes over and I’m earthbound again. As for the statistics, I’m thankful for the ammunition, because it helps my cause when I tell people I really need my 8+ hours of sleep each night! 🙂

  17. Ah, the dream state, eh? And what a fabulous lead-in with the Goldilocks and the Three Bears story! Foe a young child, pondering the young girl’s illegal slumber, I can’t believe the thoughts would be with fear for what might happen, when the bears see their own and assets have been violated. With me I can seem to get over that hump while dreaming. Good things happen and then before I get to tangibly assess the advantage I awaken. But hey, it goes two ways as well. Something bad happens or rather is about to happen, and then I realize it’s all a dream.

    Great post!

  18. I can’t support the cancer studies on sleep. They will change their findings in 5 years. You just wait and see. Then those folk who under and oversleep will be thrown off course for what’s normal to them and surely enough, they will die sooner than what was expected.

    As for me, I took a nap today and I can’t remember who was in it or what I did. I really don’t care either, long as I rested well, which I did. Does the study investigates whether naps are included? Does sleeping on the sofa instead of the bed doubles your risks?

  19. Shortly after a mini-stroke several years ago, I draw a time line to sleeping habits. Approximately 9pm – 3 am like a time clock.

    Perhaps I could do a wake-up like the tv networks. I.E. 3 (but, we’ll call it good,) 4 Central.

  20. Dreams are a mysterious wonder – most of mine are of the slice-of-life variety, but some are so magical I resent having to wake up, and others are so disturbing that I’m relieved to find out that it was “only” a dream. In one of Neil Young’s songs he says a dream is only a memory with no place to go…

  21. Goldilocks has such a sense of entitlement and lemme tell ya , that Jack and his beanstalk is nothing more than a greedy murdering thief. It is the giant that is the victim and Jack is no hero. And that old lady with her shoe full of kids is going to be investigated as well.

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