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Hypnagogia: Something Curious Happens Before You Fall Asleep

Updated: May 16, 2021

Emmanuel Swedenborg and William James, among others, observed that there is a brief time, between waking and sleep, when reality begins to warp: hypnagogia. Rigid conscious thought starts to give way into the early-stage nodding off in this hypnagogic period. With one foot in wakefulness and one in dreamland, we oscillate in and out of vivid images and sounds that begin to lap into your mind. Our thoughts become a little more lose, but we may be able to remain merely amused observers.

L.A.'s Neuma Mind Spa has designed experiences that can give rise to the kind of divergent thinking that can finally allow all those hours of focused learning and doing to translate into creative insight. Your breakthrough solution or your next project is likely already incubating in your subconscious.

Aristotle was an early fan of power of hypnagogic napping and lucid dreaming, where you become aware that you dreaming: “For often, when one is asleep, there is something in consciousness which declares that what then presents itself is but a dream." A well-known fan of creative naps, Thomas Edison used a hypnagogic technique. Holding a handful of steel ball bearings, as soon as his hand relaxed, the bearings would fall into a bowl and wake him so he could jot down his thoughts.

Salvador Dali, whose art often carried dreamlike quality, would reportedly rest in a chair, holding a large key between his thumb and forefinger above a plate on floor. Eventually, he would drop the key onto the plate and the noise would snap him back to waking consciousness. Einstein would also micro-nap sitting on an armchair, holding a pencil or spoon and begin to doze off for similar effect.

JFK’s workdays were 12 hours long, but he relied heavily on naps to keep him alert. He learnt the technique from his predecessor, Dwight Eisenhower, who, in turn, took his cue from Churchill. Churchill understood how much a 20-minute period of calm can do for one's productivity and creativity. "Nature has not intended mankind to work from eight in the morning until midnight without that refreshment of blessed oblivion which, even if it only lasts twenty minutes, is sufficient to renew all the vital forces… Don’t think you will be doing less work because you sleep during the day. That’s a foolish notion held by people who have no imaginations. You will be able to accomplish more. You get two days in one — well, at least one and a half,” he said in his book The Gathering Storm.

Book your Neuma Mind Spa experience today and see what our techniques and technology can do for your creativity, vitality, and overall well-being. Don't have a ton of time? Remember Churchill's advice about accomplishing more by taking a few minutes for yourself and note that we have 20-minute and 50-minute options available!

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