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painting of a woman napping

The Key to Micro-Napping: An Oneiric Routine to Open Your Creativity


The hypnagogic stage of sleep offers potential that Salvador Dalí was able to tap into and explain.

The tenuous border between waking and dreaming is, in the words of Salvador Dali, “an invisible and tense thread” along which an artist is able to walk with a little routine.

This routine involves taking one or two micro-naps during the day, in preparation for demanding tasks in any creative area. It requires the following steps:

1. Sit in a comfortable but straight-backed chair, preferably one with armrests.

2. Hold a heavy metal key between the thumb and forefinger.

3. Place a dish upside down beneath the key.

4. Close your eyes and clear all thoughts from your head, and try to breathe quietly.

When Dalí nodded off, and his fingers loosened their hold on the key, it fell onto the plate, waking him and bringing him back to his vigil. Seen in slow motion, Dali’s micro-naps last just until the key slips from his fingers and rings the plate-bell. But this was more than enough time to replenish his creative forces.

Hypnagogic sleep is the first of four stages of the sleep cycle. It’s the famous “alpha stage” in which the body is preparing for a state of suspension, but when awareness is yet vigilant and awakening is easy. It’s the kind of sleep where we dream of slipping or falling and then wake with a start.

Dali’s method introduces the key and the plate as acoustic elements that may cause (although it’s not been scientifically proven) a little adrenaline or cortisone, so that we wake up with the small alert, as happens with common alarm clocks, but with the advantage that the “gong” lasts only a moment, enough to alert our senses and bring them back to wakefulness.

At night, you can complement micro-napping with natural sleep aids such as oneirogens, natural substances that encourage lucidity in sleep and rest; and you may discover what, for Walter Benjamin, is the best time of day to recount a dream.

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