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Getting enough quality sleep is one of the most important things you can do for your health every day. Whether you’re struggling with a physical, mental or emotional problem, a sound night of sleep is a sure way to help provide a solution. During the required 8 hours of rest the body needs, it repairs itself. It removes toxins, lowers your sugar levels, balances hormones and emotions, consolidates new memories and creates new, often ingenious, ideas. 

 

You don’t even have to take my word for it. I’m sure you aren’t a stranger to waking up from a good sleep feeling fresh, motivated, happy and able to think clearly. 

That’s the power of an 8-hour sleep. 

However, it doesn’t have to end there. While proper rest is essential, there are a few things you can do on top of it to boost your creative output. 

 

SLEEP HACK 1

The Thomas Edison technique.

 

I don’t need to convince you that Thomas Edison was a productivity force to be reckoned with. He notoriously slept for 3 to 4 hours per night, while publicly disregarding the importance of sleep, considering it a waste of time and a “relic from the cavemen days”. Luckily, with the help of sleep research we now understand this claim to be completely inaccurate (and very dangerous). 

We also understand that there was a secret hidden in his novel approach to sleep. All the sleep Edison was losing at night he made up for in frequent daytime naps. While I cannot recommend this approach as it doesn’t allow for all of the necessary sleep processes to take place, and in the long run will ruin one’s health (Edison allegedly died of a brain cancer), there is something we can learn from the father of electricity. 

 

The part of the sleep cycle when we dream is called R.E.M. and it’s also the stage when the brain is creating and reinforcing new neural connections. In other words, it literally is a cradle of raw creativity. And there’s a way you can tap into that unlimited inventive potential. And it’s a technique Edison often used while working on his various inventions. 

Next time you go for a midday nap follow these steps:

 
1. Place a metal bowl or a cooking pot near the place where you rest.
2. Find a small metal object that can fit in your palm.
3. Place a pen and a notebook near your resting place.
4. As you position yourself for the nap make sure that your hand with the object is directly (and comfortably) above the metal bowl.
5. Take your nap without the alarm.

 

As you enter REM sleep, your muscles will relax, releasing the metal object into the bowl and waking you up.

However, before that happens, enough novel ideas will have a chance to form inside your head. Not all these ideas will be ground-breaking, and frankly most of them won’t make much sense, but do this practice often enough and you’ll increase your chances for true inspiration.

Luckily, this simple technique can be coupled with the next tactic:

 

SLEEP HACK 2

The Second Wind nap.

 

One of the main reasons why you feel tired in the evening and cannot think clearly is one pesky molecule called ‘adenosine’. This molecule accumulates in your brain over the course of your day, blocking your neural connections, and in the process, lowering your cognitive ability.

Adenosine  is a byproduct of your brain cells using energy and there is nothing you can do to stop it. However, once you understand this process you can use it to your own advantage and boost your overall productivity.

 

Around halfway through your work day, say at 1pm, take a 20 – 30 minute nap. Do it on the couch in the staff room or even lying your head down at your desk. 

 

Adenosine can only be cleared during sleep. Luckily, you don’t need to be fully asleep for this effect to work. When you’re lying down, head on your arms at your desk, in the half-asleep state, the adenosine clean-up will do its magic. After the nap you’ll feel noticeably refreshed and able to catch that second wind of mental acuity.

 

Incorporate the Second Wind Nap into your daily routine and see how much more you can get done in one day, which will allow you to enjoy your evenings with a sense of accomplishment.

And speaking of evenings, there’s one other thing you can incorporate into your daily routine that will help you be more productive.

 

SLEEP HACK 3

Sleep on your problems.

 

The phrase ‘sleep on it’ exists in every language and in every culture on Earth. And there’s a good reason for it. When you’re asleep, all the information acquired during the day is saved onto your brain’s hard drive. Then, while in R.E.M., your brain rolls up its sleeves and goes to work connecting all these newly formed memories to your already existing ones. The one thing you need to understand about your sleepy dream lab is that it’s a complete judgment-free zone.

This means that your subconscious mind disregards all the preexisting assumptions and literally looks at all information from multiple angles trying to piece  it all together as best as it can.

 

It just so happens that its best it can is often lightyears better than what the conscious mind, constrained by logic and established rules, can ever come up with. Put in another way, the subconscious mind often creates visionary solutions by accident.

 

Okay so how can you capitalize on this mental superpower?

It’s simple. Whenever you have a problem you need to create an original solution for, review the problem before you go to sleep. Write down all your thoughts on a piece of paper, write down the question you need answered. You can even break it down into simple one-word associations.

 

So, a question such as:

Which country should I live in next?

Could be broken down into:

Country + Live + Happy

 

Then go to sleep and let your subconscious do the rest.

I can’t promise that every morning you’ll wake up there will be a visionary solution waiting for you, but I can promise you that should you adopt it as your daily habit, this will happen more often than you think.

 

Lastly, I have to stress again that these hacks can only work on top of a healthy sleep routine. If your body is sleep deprived, instead of sharp and ready for action, waking up from a short “Edison nap” will leave you groggy and hungry for more. Likewise, your body will prioritize health during your afternoon naps rather than novel ideas. Piecing together new information in novel ways only happens in your mind in the last hour of an 8 hour slumber, so if you frequently wake up too early, you’ll deprive yourself of these creative benefits.

I personally like to think of my last hour of sleep as passive productivity, which makes me feel much better about longer sleep.

 

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