Charles Dickens’ hypnagogia, dreams, and creativity
This is a provisional file, not the final typeset article Introduction Charles Dickens was a prolific and ingenious 19th-century British writer, as well as being an insomniac well-versed in sleep disorders, who died about 150 years ago (Collins, 2020;Cosnett, 1992) .As we will show, the virtual dream world is important to Dickens' narrative structure, and was fundamental to Dickens' work process, social engagement, and fantasy, as we can also infer from the statements of Winyard and Furneaux, 2010. "For Dickens, fundamental emotional and social bonds are formed between different classes and peoples by creating sympathy through imagination," and "For Dickens, science should excite, rather than reductively explain, imagination and the bonds that forge it between people." This paper intends to explore hypnagogia and dreams in two of Dickens' most famous characters, Oliver Twist in "Oliver Twist" (1837-1839) (Dickens, 1938(Dickens, , 1839(Dickens, , 1839 and Ebenezer Scrooge in "A Christmas Carol" (Dickens, 1843). However, some literary critics have focused their attention on Dickensian sleep/dreaming, but are unusual the approaching on it from a biological point of view, the main aim of this paper.Paper type: Perspective 2 Manuscript FormattingDickens' traumatic experiences as a teenager, as well as his wanderings through the streets of London, served as raw material for his creative process, as well as for the composition of his characters. He also covered vivid images about sleep disorders, possibly dependent on his own experiences and those of his family and friends (Cosnet-sleep).Dickens described his characters" sleep problems such as insomnia, usually situational; sleep promotion, places that favor sleep, soporific effects of meals; hypnagogic hallucinations; perhaps the first account of restless legs syndrome, sleep paralysis; dreams, nightmares, and night terrors, many of which were situational; somnambulism and drowsiness (Cosnett-sleep). This last symptom is linked to a boy, Joe, who was obese, very sleepy during the daytime who snores. According to Cosnett, 1992, Dickens must have realized the potential severity of this syndrome. Impressive! Charles Dickens was one of the first informal experts on sleep and wake disorders, many not yet described in his time.He was also a social reformer and favored the development of shelters for homeless women, the first pediatric hospital in the UK, and the humanization of the disadvantaged (Krieger, 2012).Dickens had insomnia and to control it, among other measures, he would leave his bed and walk the streets of London, to have a restful and peaceful sleep on his return (Chowdhury, 2014). On these walks, he visualized scenes useful for his works and turned this empathy for suffering into a means of social reform.Another measure to combat his insomnia included lowering his body temperature when he stayed by the bed until he felt cold and cooled his pillows and bedding, only to return to bed afterward (Horne, 2016).He also used to stand in the middle of the bed pointed north, with his arms out with his hands equidistant from the edges of the bed. Besides, Dickens kept a navigational compass to make sure he slept facing north.
The writer also believed that this particular practice enhanced his creativity (Horne, 2016). Also, sleep-inducing substances such as alcohol and opium or tincture of laudanum were widely available in 19th century England. Consequently, they were available to anyone who could obtain them, including Dickens.Dickens himself recognized the importance of sleep in his creative mind, as did his contemporaries, but this present study refers to some accounts of Dickens' characters in the current view on the neurobiology and creativity of dreams.Before this evaluation, it is necessary to remember that sleep is an ultradian rhythm (occurring in periods shorter than 24 h) composed of 4-6 cycles of approximately 90 minutes each that are divided into phases, either random eye movement (REM) or non-REM (N1, N2, N3 or "deep sleep"). More particularly, hypnagogia is associated with the transition from the waking state to non-REM sleep.
The famous writer is known to have used his dreams (figure 1) as "aesthetic experiences of intrinsic value" for his creative fiction (Chowdhury, 2014). He grew up under the influence of the Romantic Movement and its writers who supported a strong connection between dreams and the process of literary creation (Chowdhury, 2014).Throughout his career, Dickens published novels with many memorable characters -"Dickensian". Among his best-known works are the following two. "Oliver Twist" (1837-1839) is Dickens' 2nd novel where there is an account of the life of an orphan living on the streets and his first nine years in charities. Unable to bear such mistreatment, Oliver flees to London, where he joins a group of criminals led by Fagin.
The boy goes through much suffering before living happily with an inheritance left to him by his father and an unexpected family."A Christmas Carol" (Dickens, 1843) presents Ebenezer Scrooge, a miser who catches a glimpse of the ghost of his late partner, who regretted that he had been neither good nor generous. According to the ghost, Scrooge will receive the vision of three more ghosts, who will take him on a journey through the present, past, and future, to try to save him while he is still alive. All four ghosts visit him in one night, but Scrooge is not sure if it is a dream or not. Figure 1. This is a provisional file, not the final typeset articleVarious dream scenes experienced by Dickens' characters have often been examined from a psychological and psychodynamic point of view. Here we attempt to interpret them from a neurobiological point of view, but without dismissing the importance of psychological traumas for the expression of oneirism. Dissociative symptoms can potentially disrupt all areas of psychological functioning such as consciousness, memory, identity, emotion, perception, body representation, motor control, and behavior (DSM-5). Furthermore, dissociative symptoms are not limited to dissociative disorders per se, as they can also be a trans-diagnostic and comorbid phenomenon with psychotic illnesses, anxiety, depression, for example.
The intensity of these symptoms would be related to the severity of this hybridism.Moreover, in healthy people, dreaming may favor memory consolidation processes, while in people with post-traumatic stress disorder or with nightmares, as well as in "stressed" people, there is a new virtual reality, when daytime traumatic content would be incorporated into problem-solving strategies (Scarpelli et al., 2019).There is no doubt that Oliver Twist faces social and psychological problems and these associations must be considered (van Heugten-van and Lynn, 2020). This Dickens ́character has aspects of dissociation of psychobiological functioning, especially concerning consciousness and perception, as well as hybridization of levels of consciousness. This would happen in his possible generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), as he has difficulty controlling his worries.
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) has among the criteria for GAD, extreme anxiety, worry, and difficulty sleeping (due to trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, restlessness at night, or unsatisfying sleep).Some literary critics focus their attention on Dickensian sleep, for example, Andrade, apud Greaney, 2014, shows that the oscillation between sleep and waking states are crucial to the novel's narrative structure and notes that "Oliver undergoes too many levels of unconsciousness, semi-consciousness, and consciousness, for the reader to be able to distinguish one from the other". This hybridization is clearly stated in Oliver Twist: "...reality and imagination become so strangely blended that it is afterward almost a matter of impossibility to separate the two..." (Dickens, 1839 in. Oliver Twist, 259).Furthermore, there are also several accounts of dream-reality confusion when for example Scrooge was confused about his first dream (Dickens, 1843, 39):"He resolved to lie awake until the hour was passed; and, considering that he could no more go to sleep than go to heaven, this was, perhaps, the wisest resolution in his power.
The quarter was so long, that he was more than once convinced he must have sunk into a doze unconsciously, and missed the clock.". This next excerpt also sounds like an account of a hypnagogic state, but it could also be a lucid dream in REM sleep (Dickens, 1838 in Oliver Twist, 134-5):"There is a drowsy state, between sleeping and waking, when you dream more in five minutes with your eyes half open, and yourself half conscious of everything that is passing around you than you would in five nights with your eyes fast closed, and your senses wrapt in perfect unconsciousness"The state of hypnagogic sleep is similar to that of REM sleep. Hypnagogia is a common fleeting perceptual experience that occurs during the transition from wakefulness to sleep and from sleep to wakefulness, with varying degrees of emotionality (Waters et al., 2016). In relation to lucid dreams, it is noticed that one is dreaming during sleep, most of them occurring during REM sleep, but they can also occur during non-REM sleep.When the images are too vivid or disturbing, a sleep disorder called hypnagogic hallucinations, from waking to sleep, or hypnopompic hallucinations, from sleep to wakefulness, occurs, which are highly realistic visions most often found in narcolepsy. In these states, the mind is fluid and hyperassociative, and the mind can organize creative connections and bring distant ideas together in a new way. This hypnagogic state is useful for problem-solving and creative work. REM sleep and dreams are further linked to creativity (Llewellyn and Desseilles, 2017). This association was demonstrated through the French-Italian study on patients with narcolepsy that is characterized by falling asleep directly in REM sleep and, among several symptoms, a high frequency of dream recall and also lucid dreaming.
These results highlight a higher creative potential in subjects with narcolepsy and further support the role of REM sleep in creativity (Lacaux et al., 2019). This creative insight would depend on the spread of neural activation to make remote associations between memories (Llewellyn and Desseilles, 2017). This excerpt depicts the common dreamlike state of Dickens and his characters (Dickens, 1838 in Oliver Twist, 115): "I hope so," replied the child, "after I am dead, but not before. I know the doctor must be right, Oliver, because I dream so much of heaven and angels, and kind faces that I never see when I am awake. " Kiss me," said the child, climbing up the low gate, and flinging his little arms round Oliver"s neck. " Goodbye, dear God bless you!".The next excerpt looks like confusional arousals that are more common in children that happen from partial or incomplete arousal from a deep sleep: "Weak, and thin, and pallid, he awoke at last from what seemed to have been a long and troubled dream" (Dickens, 1838 in Oliver Twist, 176). This excerpt, in the context of the chapter, seems to be just a description of a drowsy child reacting to an affectionate approach (Dickens, 1839 in Oliver Twist, 164-5): "The boy stirred, and smiled in his sleep, as though these marks of pity and compassion had awakened some pleasant dream of a love and affection he had never known".Regarding Ebenezer Scrooge ( figure 2B), it appears that his dream content exhibits oscillatory changes throughout a night, from short reports to elaborate, vivid, emotional dreams with sensorimotor hallucinatory experiences that are common in REM sleep dreams (Carr and Solomonova, 2019). As noted above, dream-like mental activity can be observed during all phases of sleep. However, in REM sleep dreams tend to be more vivid, emotional, bizarre, and more often include an associated narrative structure as suggested with the patterns of neural activation and deactivation observed during REM sleep. For example, during this dream state, on functional neuroimaging scans, visual areas appear more active, compared to both wakefulness and slow-wave sleep. In summary, dream states, especially those of REM sleep, are characterized by high activity in areas of the brain associated with imagery. Also, this phase is marked by reduced activity in the prefrontal cerebral cortex involved in planning, decision making, and social behavior.It also appears that the main character in "Christmas Carol" had a dream triggered in the sleep-onset REM period (SOREMP), since it is the suggestive descriptions of it caused by his tiredness (Dickens, 1943, 34, 65):"And being, from the emotions he had undergone, or the fatigues of the day, or his glimpse of the Invisible World, or the dull conversation of the Ghost, or the lateness of the hour, much in need of repose, went straight to bed without undressing, and fell asleep upon the instant"."He was conscious of being exhausted, and overcome by an irresistible drowsiness, and, further, of being in his own bedroom. He gave the cap a parting squeeze, in which his hand relaxed; and had barely time to reel to bed, before he sank into a heavy sleep".Dreaming can occur from mentation that is typical of the early stages of non-REM sleep to very vivid dreams that are more typical of REM sleep. At this stage, extensive sensorimotor cortical activity seems to underlie the vivid embodied images of dreaming as already commented on. One theory is that the dream is influenced by muscular twitching, as also occurs during early sleep when the experience of hypnotic jerks can be associated with vivid images of falling. In addition to muscular twitches, Carr et al.2020 claim that cortical processing of body sensation continues during sleep and influences dream generation. In this way, dreaming emerges in a co-creative way: actual body sensation contributes to dreaming generation just as individual experience shapes the dream narrative, which manifests in more body sensation, and so on, completing the dreaming circuity (Carr et al.2020).Scarpelli et al. 2019 raised questions in their literature review on disturbing dreams in life.
The authors assume that dreams can be considered an expression of brain maturation and cognitive development, consequently concerning memory and visuospatial abilities. Furthermore, the mindsleep activity could be beneficial in the case of stressful events. However, there would be differences in the experiences of both sleep and dreams throughout life. Older adults would remember the dream contents related to essential autobiographical memories, as was the case with Scrooge, the old miser. However, there is a dramatic drop in the rate of dream recall when brain damage occurs. In particular, bad dreams and nightmares can try to deal with stressful events at any age, but periods characterized by changes in childhood life seem to be more related to disturbing dreams. This is established in Oliver Twist's experiences of floating consciousness. However, older adults affected by anxiety symptoms during wakefulness reported higher rates of nightmares, but reduced dreams were observed during aging.While in healthy people dreaming may serve memory consolidation processes, in post-traumatic stress disorder or "stressed" patients, it could promote the simulation of a new reality, where daytime traumatic contents would be modified or integrated into strategies to aid problem-solving mechanisms.
These latter considerations may be related to Oliver's experiences with his endured persecution promoted by the delinquents led by Fagin. Figure 2Fluctuating cognitive activity is presented by Charles Dickens through the dreaming of his young or old characters. Furthermore, it seems that Dickens often used sleep, usually hypnagogia, perhaps lucid REM dreaming, as a creative working process.This happened because dreams favor creativity and problem solving, as well as in the transition from sleep to wakefulness, the mind is free to make creative associations and assimilate information without the usual critical scrutiny of the waking state.Some of Charles Dickens' characters confuse reality with imagination when non-real apperceptions seem falsely familiar, as is the case with the scenes of young Oliver Twist, and Ebenezer Scrooge.
There is also the character with vivid accounts of dreams with a long and complex autobiographical plot, as is the case with Scrooge, the old miser who goes through the redemption process at Christmas time.Thus, Charles Dickens, in addition to his work, left a legacy on the use of dreaming as a means of generating creative insights now better understood through the neurobiology of dreams. .
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