“Hyperarousal” is a state of excessive awake-ness. And it plagues almost every human living in the industrialized world today.

My guest Rubin Naiman, a psychologist who specializes in sleep and dreams, argues that we now live in a wake-centric world. And that this obsession with waking life makes us unable — or unwilling — to fully surrender ourselves to the kind of deep, restful sleep that’s required to sustain our sanity and our creativity.

In this philosophical interview, Rubin and I dig into why living in a state of hyperarousal leaves us wired and tired, what it means to regard sleep as a sacred space, and how “dream eyes” allow us to uncover creative connections that we can’t access in the waking world.

Key takeaways from the conversation:

  • Why dreaming is critical to the creative process
  • What living in a state of constant “hyperarousal” looks like
  • How chronic sleep loss dramatically impacts your mood
  • Why deep sleep is essential for modulating the velocity of waking life

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Favorite Quotes

“We are wake-centric. We believe, without questioning, that waking consciousness, what we’re doing now, is where it’s at. This is the premium. This is consciousness. And that sleeping and dreaming are secondary, and very importantly, they are seen as subservient to waking. So we’ve diminished the value—the meaning—of sleeping and I think this keeps us stuck in waking.”

“In dreaming, there’s a sense of meaning in almost everything, and I think that is the foundation of creativity. We begin to see the numinous. We begin to see a sense of life, a sense of energy quivering behind everything, if we look at the world through dream eyes—if we remember how to look at the world the way we did as children.”

“The antidote to hyperarousal is humility. The word humility is derived from the term humus, which of course is earth. So there’s something about coming down. The body submits, if you will, to gravity.”


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A shortlist of the bits and bobs we mention in this episode:

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