For me, all naps end one of two ways. Either I awake as the full embodiment of Snow White or I blearily bat my eyes open, feeling like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day. Some might say that snoozing midday is a fine art—one that Aristotle, Salvador Dalí, and Albert Einstein truly mastered. And with a set of house keys, you can learn to master the art of the power nap for yourself.
Each of the aforementioned creatives—and many more who’s names belong in history books—turned to the “key drop” technique not only for rest, but as an act of awakening creativity, reports Fast Company. In short, the method invites you to hold your house keys, or another object that will clatter loudly, in your palm and lie down on your bed/couch/office chair (hey, no judgement here). Then, just make sure to angle your hand so it’s hanging over the edge of your chosen napping spot. As you lose consciousness, whatever’s in your hand will slip from your palm and wake you up as it hits the floor.
This process triggers what Dalí called a power nap of “less than a quarter of a second,” according to Psychology Today. Michelle Carr, PhD, a researcher at Swansea University Sleep Laboratory explains that within a split second, you drift toward a unique and inventive frame of mind. “Just before awakening you momentarily enter the hypnagogic sleep state, a state similar to REM sleep where the mind is fluid and hyper-associative,” she writes, “allowing creative connections to form, connections between seemingly remote concepts that you may not realize in the structure of waking thought.”
“Just before awakening you momentarily enter the hypnagogic sleep state, a state similar to REM sleep where the mind is fluid and hyper-associative, allowing creative connections to form, connections between seemingly remote concepts that you may not realize in the structure of waking thought.” —Michelle Carr, PhD,
Dr. Carr explains that we all stumble across this state every so often, especially while traveling by bus or plane. (Although, in this case, your head accidentally landing on your seat mate’s shoulder is the key drop.) In these transportive instances, the creative tool at work is actually called “Upright Napping Procedure.” The best way to maximize these bursts of dream-fueled genius is to prompt yourself to think of a problem right before dozing off, then immediately taking notes when your head-snapping wake-up call arrives.
Conveniently, I learned about the key-dropping technique right before boarding a six-hour flight from New York City to Phoenix. I snuggle up in my seat and decide to give this sort of power nap a try. Even though I forget my problem entirely as the drone of the airplane lulls me into slumber, I make sure to write down my insights the second I felt my chin hit my chest. Looking back in my journal now, they look kind of like the unhinged ramblings of someone who keeps waking up to the same day over and over again. But who knows? Maybe one day I’ll flip to the page once more and feel a lightning strike of inspiration.
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