Sleep and your brain’s video recorder

Posted on May 21, 2013 · Posted in Sleep

My wife and I had a conversation with a neuro-ophthalmologist at Duke University a few months ago. He explained to us that 30-50% of the brain’s activity is taken up with vision. That fact amazed me. The eye is the lens that lets in the light, but our brains do the processing and storage of the images carried by the light. So everything I see is processed and stored in my brain, even if I don’t remember all of what I see. So that led me to consider, well, just how much can our brains store? Here is an answer from Scientific American:

“If your brain worked like a digital video recorder in a television, it has enough memory to hold three million hours of TV shows. You would have to leave the TV running continuously for more than 300 years to use up all that storage.” Scientific American  April 19, 2010

Three million hours is a lot of hours! In this sense, there is no casual viewing. This is yet another application of the importance of guarding your heart.

It is not surprising that sleep provides an opportunity for some of these stored images to emerge. This helps us to understand why children can be tormented by troubling, unexpected dreams and why teenagers can be dominated with lust in their dreams. Often, the images from dreams are fleeting and difficult to remember. Since sleep is a part of life it is fitting to want to bring honor to God when we sleep.. One of the benefits of delighting in God is sweet sleep. Proverbs 3 indicates that pursuit of sound judgment brings this protection. The same theme is stated in Proverbs 6:22.

Do you need to help a child with night fears? Talk regularly about the power of God with children who are terrified or saddened by dreams. You don’t have to know the exact origin of each disturbing thought. But it is helpful to remember the vast storage capacity the brain has for visual images. Images long forgotten can re-emerge. There is no image that is recalled that cannot be dealt with biblically.  A dream that is selfish should be repented of when remembered. A dream that brings fear should be an occasion to seek God for refuge.

The Bible promises that sweet and protected sleep is possible. God never sleeps. God can hear and answer your prayers when you are sleeping, because he is always awake, always able to help. This contrast between creature and Creator is a practical, comforting fact for a child, and his parents, to remember.

My son, preserve sound judgment and discernment,

do not let them out of your sight;

they will be life for you,

an ornament to grace your neck.

Then you will go on your way in safety,

and your foot will not stumble;

when you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet. Proverbs 3:21-24

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jay Younts
John A. (Jay) Younts is the Shepherd Press blogger, and is a ruling elder serving at Redeemer Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church in Moore, South Carolina. He has written Everyday Talk, Everyday Talk About Sex & Marriage, Finding the Right Track, the In Touch With Paul stewardship series, and What About War. He has studied and taught about biblical childrearing for 30 years. He and his late wife Ruth have five adult children.