Did you know that your body and brain go through complex activities while you sleep?
Sleep is vital for your mental and physical health. It’s during this time that toxins are removed from your brain and serotonin levels come back to normal. Sleep affects your metabolism, blood pressure, and a great deal more.
And we also know that good sleep is essential to be productive and energetic during the workday. Which is why we spend around a good 8 hours just sleeping.
What if you could ‘hack’ the time spent sleeping to be more productive?
Many creative geniuses have relied on their sleeping habits as a way to energize themselves, get inspiration, or find solutions to difficult problems.
Let’s explore how they used sleep to fuel their work and how we can apply these tips to achieve our goals while sleeping.
Try Lucid Dreaming
Lucid dreaming refers to being aware that you’re dreaming while you’re dreaming. The idea is to take some control of your dream and to simulate a scenario that you want to play out in real life. One study on lucid dreaming has found that athletes who deliberately dream about practicing a sport see improvements in real life.
You can also use lucid dreaming to stop nightmares, to find solutions to issues, or to improve physical skills. In fact, you could apply it to anything. Use it to remove your fear of an animal or to give you confidence in public speaking.
How can you learn to practice lucid dreaming?
There are two practical ways that you can try right away:
- Set an alarm to wake you up after around 6 hours of sleep. Rehearse a specific dream in your head and go back to sleep for a few hours. Many people report experiencing lucid dreams during the second sleep session.
- Throughout the day, get into the habit of asking yourself ‘Am I dreaming right now?’ The idea is that it creates an impression in your mind and you’ll end up asking yourself this question during sleep. This will make you aware that you’re dreaming and to start navigating your dream
Lucid dreaming can be a powerful way to explore a problem, a story, or to practice something you want to manifest in real life. Mastering it takes time but it’s a rewarding and interesting skill to develop.
Set an Intention
Your brain continues to process information while you sleep. You have very likely had dreams that are clearly based on something you thought about during the day.
You can use this amazing attribute of your brain to solve specific problems while you sleep. Do this by setting a clear intention before you go to bed.
Spend a few minutes repeating a specific instance that you’d like your brain to work out. For example, you could say ‘Tonight I will dream of a plot for my novel’ or something that’s relevant to you. It’s also helpful to write about it or repeat a specific phrase in your private journal before retiring.
One study on problem-solving during sleep found that this technique led to the experiment group to increase its ability to solve puzzles.
An interesting example is that of writer R. L. Stevenson who wrote Dr. Jeckyl and Mr. Hyde. Stevenson had long looked for ways to express the dual nature of human beings. It was his constant thinking about it that eventually led to a dream that helped him see the classic story play out.
Read Before Sleeping
A study on the effect of sleep on memory shows that people who memorize information before sleeping retain more of the material. What’s interesting is that the more unrelated the information is, the better the mind can remember it.
This means that you would do better to not work on content that you’re familiar with. Instead, try to learn a difficult language or to read something you don’t know anything about. Make learning something challenging the last thing you do before sleeping to make the best use of your mind’s ability to remember.
Hack Micro Naps
Salvador Dali used ‘micro naps’ to walk the line between sleep and wakefulness. This state where you’re drowsy and on the verge of sleeping is also called Hypnagogia.
Dali would slump into a chair with a pair of keys in his hand. His hand would hang over the arms of the chair and over a metal plate. When he dropped off, he would release the keys that would fall and wake him up.
He believed that this invigorated the body and refreshed the mind, making one ready to spend time in creative work.
We often feel distracted or drowsy as we work and try to fight the feeling. Instead, consider these moments of drowsiness as opportunities. The next time you feel less productive and unable to focus, lean into the feeling. Take the opportunity to have a micro nap. You’ll feel reinvigorated and better able to focus.
Create Good Sleep Habits
In the end, the most important thing that you can do is to sleep well. Even if you don’t use any other technique, at least try to build a sleep routine that helps you get complete rest at night.
- Turn off your electronics a few hours before sleep; this includes your TV too
- Dim the lights for a while before heading to bed
- Create a routine i.e a series of steps that you’ll follow every night before sleeping so that you’ll create a natural association between these steps and good sleep. For example, reading a book or drinking a glass of milk before turning in.
- Invest in good-quality bedding to ensure that you’re comfortable
Consider Albert Einstein who reportedly slept 10 hours a day. Given that sleep gives you energy and helps your body function well, you need to sleep well to be at your best.
We spend around 8 hours a day sleeping. It’s a valuable time to rest and allow our bodies and minds to heal. But imagine what you could accomplish if you used your sleep to get inspiration or to solve everyday problems. You’d see massive improvements in your life.
Give the suggestions mentioned here a try and you’ll see changes in your life that help you grow.