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Micro Napping: Benefits and Tips

By Thomas Wrona Published on

Tags: Napping, Sleep

Table of Contents

Some people like power naps, while some of history’s most creative people like Salvadore Dali, Thomas Edison, and Richard Wagner, preferred even briefer moments of shut-eye called the micro-nap. 

While a power nap can last up to 30 minutes, a micro nap lasts for less than five. Micro naps aren’t nearly long enough to help you catch up on sleep. They’re more of a bio-hack to increase memory and transform mood. Let’s explore. 

What is Micro Napping?

According to many sleep experts, any and every nap one takes should be ‘micro’ — or at least shorter than normal. 

“An effective nap should not exceed about 20-30 minutes, explains sleep specialist Siavash Panah, MD. “If you’re still groggy after that, you’re not resting well enough during the night.” [1]

Micro naps, however, take this concept to the extreme. They last no more than five minutes, with most practitioners preferring to take even shorter micro naps. Some of history’s luminaries were fans of taking naps lasting less than one second (more on that later). 

Micro naps are most useful when it comes to changing your mood. The brief moments of sleep they provide can push your mental reset button and significantly improve “memory performance” once the nap is done. In other words, micro napping today could help you remember things better tomorrow. [2]

How Does Micro Napping Work?

Micronapping is thought to tap into a consciousness ‘gray area’ between the waking and sleeping states. This middle state is called hypnagogia

According to Professor Andreas Mavromatis, “the ‘newer’ (evolutionarily speaking), rational parts of the brain are inhibited [during hypnagogia], while the ‘older,’ more primitive parts (which think in imagery and symbolism rather than words and well-defined concepts), have freer rein.” [3

Chances are you’ve already experienced hypnagogia at one point or another. It feels almost like you’re floating over the edge of consciousness; you can sense where your mind is going, but you also realize you’re not in charge of it. 

In the hypnagogic state, you may see vivid visuals, hear hallucinatory noises, or feel physical sensations. It’s almost like you’re dreaming when you’re still awake.

Other activities above and beyond micro naps can induce hypnagogia, too. These activities include meditation and psychedelic therapy. All can contribute to the experience of creative reverie known as flow state

For most of us, hypnagogia isn’t an easily-repeatable experience. It remains elusive, more of an art than a science — unless, of course, you micro nap.  

Micro Napping’s top benefits

  • Alertness
  • Cognitive flexibility
  • Enhanced creativity

Alertness 

Most people feel much more alert after a micro nap. Interestingly, this newfound alertness can’t be explained by the length of the nap. 

Rather, it’s caused by the fact that your brain waves momentarily shifted into other states. [4] You can take micro napping’s energizing effects further by having a cup of coffee or tea just before your nap (more on why this works soon).  

Cognitive flexibility

Micro napping is known by its practitioners to make your waking mind more flexible, dynamic, and insightful. 

As a way to predictably access the hypnagogic state, micro napping tends to leave you feeling closer to your dreams than you were previously. Many people become tuned into how dream imagery represents aspects of their life they’re not always conscious of. 

It can also create a sense of continuity between waking and sleeping states, making all of life more meaningful. 

Enhanced creativity 

Micro napping’s ability to enhance creativity is best seen in the real-world experiences of many top thinkers and creators. 

Poets like William Blake and John Keats described their hypnagogic visions in their poems. Chemist Friedrich August Kekulé credited his elucidation of the benzene molecule to a daydream. [5

Micro naps fueled incredible innovations in math, science, literature, and the arts. The practice of micro napping was especially popular during the mid-1800s when the Romantic era was in full swing and intuition was highly prized. 

Difference Between Micro Naps and Micro Sleep

It’s important to note the big difference between micro naps and micro sleep. 

Micro napping refers to an intentional journey in and out of waking consciousness, while micro sleep refers to falling asleep unintentionally. 

In the wrong situations micro sleep can be dangerous: say if you’re driving home late at night, or caretaking a child when you’re sleepy. The key to taking safe, effective micro naps is their intentionality.  

Salvador Dali’s Tips for How to Micro Nap

salvador dali cartoon

Instead of providing a set-in-stone guide, we will follow the lead of one of the greats of micro napping, iconoclastic artist Salvador Dali. 

Dali practiced micro napping via a technique he called “slumber with a key.” This ultra-short afternoon slumber was designed to last less than one second! 

That might sound impossible — but not with Dali’s method.  Dali would set himself up for micro napping success by sitting in a chair with sturdy armrests. He’d dangle his hands over the edges of the armrests, with his left hand holding a key. On the floor below him, he’d place an upside-down pan. The moment Dali fell asleep, the key would slip from his grasp, and ping off the pan, waking him up. 

According to Dali, “slumber with a key” was essential to his artistic abilities. Dali explained that in his singular moment of sleep he walked “in equilibrium on the taut and invisible wire that separates sleep from waking.” He also claimed that many other famous artists used it. 

In his later years Dali recommended a similar practice to anyone who wanted to have their “physical and physic being” completely energized, or “revivified.” If you’d like to try out the practice yourself, here are some helpful tips:

Have some coffee

Having a cup of coffee prior to your micro nap could help you wake up easier and get back into the groove faster. And since caffeine takes roughly 20 minutes to kick in, this practice won’t affect the quality of your nap. 

Optimize your Environment

Optimizing your sleeping environment is likely the single best way to have a successful micro nap. Dim the lights, ditch the cell phone, and ask any housemates to keep the noise down for a while. 

Have some writing materials handy

You never know when inspiration might strike — and that means it’s a good idea to keep a notebook handy in case the hypnagogic state reveals important and creative insights. 

Place a hard dish/pan directly beneath your hand

Place a dish or pan directly beneath where your hand will be while sleeping. Aluminum pie plates work especially well. 

Select a hard object to hold

Dali used a key, Thomas Edison used a ball bearing, but you can use whatever you’d like. Try to hold the object loosely between your fingers. You’ll fall asleep easier that way. 

Relax

Next up is the simple part: simply relax! Micro-napping just after eating a big meal rich in nourishing meat can help. Close your eyes and imagine your awareness expanding into the sky. As you start to transition, your mind may come alive with visions and colors.

Feel free to document any new ideas or insights that come next, even if they seem trivial at first. 

Micro Naps: The Takeaway

Micro naps present a fully natural, time-tested way to boost your creativity and intuition. Their benefits are numerous — and they take only a few minutes, including setup! 

Try taking a micro nap the next time you have a quiet afternoon. You may be surprised by the creativity and mood-enhancing benefits, while creating an intriguing continuity between waking life and the images of your dreams.