Tapping Your Superconscious: 1-Second Nap Your Way to Powerful Solutions

by Brad Isaac on June 4, 2006

Imagine you have a problem that you just can’t solve. You spend all of your waking hours thinking about it. You ask the advice of friends and advisers. But still you just don’t know.

Now picture yourself so exhausted from worry and stress, you sit down in a chair and doze off only to be awakened 1-second later by the phone ringing. You don’t answer the phone because during that one second, you had an incredible dream. In the dream, you saw the perfect solution to your problem. You feel excited and you begin effortlessly putting your solution into action and before you know it, you’re done.

Sounds fantastic doesn’t it? If you could get a 1-second to a perfect solution to your problem? That is one of the advantages of this method and I am going to show you how you can take a split second nap for a direct route to your superconscious.

Now before you start thinking I’ve gone off the deep end and am entering some mystic mumbo jumbo, hear me out. I’m not the only one who has used this little-known method. Thomas A. Edison, inventor of the lightbulb is the first person I read about who made 1-second napping a science. His method would take him from daydreaming to 1-second ‘twilight dreaming” and wake up in the state of mind to do something with the solutions presented.

Here is his method: What he would do is he would sit back in a comfortable chair or lie down on a couch and prop his hand in the air with his elbow resting next to him. In his hand he’d have a fist full of ball bearings. As he sat there daydreaming, he’d gradually drift off to sleep. As soon as sleep took over, his hand would relax, releasing the ball bearings onto the wood floor, immediately awakening him. This would obviously leave him with a nap lasting less than a second.

He would immediately write down the dreams and solutions he’d get during these split second naps. Many of these dream solutions were perfect fixes to the problem at hand or the next step to take while making a new invention.

The author of Treasure Island, Robert Louis Stevenson, got the idea for one of his most famous works during an abrupt awakening. “In the small hours one morning,” says his wife, “I was awakened by cries of horror from Louis. Thinking he had a nightmare I awakened him. He said angrily, ‘Why did you wake me? I was dreaming a fine bogey tale.’” The dream was so vivid that he could not rest until he had written off the story, and it so possessed him that the first draft was finished within three days. It was called “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.”(The Life of Robert Louis Stevenson for Boys and Girls by Jacqueline M. Overton, 1933)

Perhaps Stevenson hadn’t had a split second nap, but it’s still noteworthy that he was woken up middream with a perfect idea. His idea has stood the test of time and lasted for generations.

You may have noticed, one important benefit of the solutions gained by 1-second naps result in vast motivation as well.

Personally, at age 25, one of my first 1-second nap sessions resulted in the concept for a suspense novel in its entirety from cover to cover. The novel consumed my daily thoughts as I simply transcribed my dream novel at the pace of 3 pages a day for the better part of a year. (In case you’re wondering. It hasn’t been published yet. I send it out as time allows – so if you know someone in the psychological suspense publishing world, let me know.)

Warning: I should mention that you should never take your superconscious inspiration for granted. Like the story The Boy Who Cried Wolf, if you don’t take action on your superconscious revelations, they will occur with less and less frequency. Inspiration is a personal gift. Your inspirations make you unique. To not act on them is to waste untold potential.

It may be fun to be entertained with our superconscious inspirations but lack of action makes us like the young nephew who squanders his rich uncle’s inheritance on fast cars and women. So don’t ask for inspiration if you won’t follow through.

This post is part of the Achieve-IT! Series Tapping Your Superconscious where you can learn unique ways to gain solutions to problems, inspirations and life changing ideas.

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Matt June 19, 2006 at 3:33 pm

I think that certain drugs have the same end result: Your subconcious mind is freed from the constraints placed upon it by your concious mind.

Mark June 20, 2006 at 12:45 am

This has one key flaw. Thomas Edison is also well known to have been an unofficial polyphasic sleeper. Becoming a polyphasic sleeper allows you to enter the dream-state nearly instantaneously upon falling asleep. However, the average monophasic sleeper will not begin “dreaming”, as stated in this article, for around the first 90 minutes of sleep.

Me June 20, 2006 at 12:58 am

‘twilight’ = common word in Blind Guardian songs.

Spyle June 20, 2006 at 1:05 am

You could try meditating. It takes a little bit of practice to start out, but once you start meditating deeply you can tap into subconscience on your own; eventually at any moment whenever you want.

dna June 20, 2006 at 1:22 am

Salvador Dalí emplored this technique, writing about it in his book 50 Secrets of Magic Craftsmanship. It was known by the ancients and was called Slumber with a Key, because one would sit in a chair with a key in between the fingers and upon falling asleep one would be awakened by the sound of the falling key.

June 20, 2006 at 8:04 am

Somehow I don’t quite buy it. A 1-second nap does not send one into REM sleep (where dreams come from). I’ve had plenty of lucid dreams in the middle of the night that inspire me, and I’ve often woken up from a light sleep with ideas that I need to write down before I can get back to sleep. But I highly doubt a full novel being conceived in less than 1 second. I often have trouble falling asleep while in bed when I’m tired, so I don’t know how I would ever accomplish falling asleep while sitting in a chair and holding anything.

Mark again June 20, 2006 at 9:58 am

Dali, and Da Vinci are also well-known unofficial polyphasic sleepers.

I agree with Kathaclysm. This is very unlikely, and even more unlikely to occur in the average person sleeping on a monophasic schedule.

June 20, 2006 at 11:26 am

As far as dreaming for 1 second is concerned, people who suffer from Narcolepsy often report they dream even if they dose for just a second or two. Others who have briefly fallen asleep while driving can mention vivid dreams of being at work, home or being arrested in the split second before they wake up.

Rip Van Winkle June 20, 2006 at 12:09 pm

I tried this today on my lunch hour. I went to my car, put my keys in my hand and waited for the magic moment.

Four hours later, I woke up with my keys clenched tightly in my fist, drool seeping from the corner of my mouth.

My boss fired me.

Thanks a lot, jerk.

June 20, 2006 at 12:34 pm

i’m not sure if i’m a “polyphasic” sleeper, but i’ve definitely had dreams the moment i go to sleep. in fact, i often take 15-20 minute naps and i dream more (or remember more of them) during the naps than in normal sleep.

June 20, 2006 at 12:37 pm

The way I heard the Edison story was that he wasn’t trying to take 1 second naps. Rather, he was trying to stay on the cusp between consciousness and sub-consciousness in order to improve his creative problem solving. The purpose of the ball bearing was to wake him up immediately when he actually drifted into sleep.

June 20, 2006 at 4:59 pm

“But I highly doubt a full novel being conceived in less than 1 second.”

@kathaclysm, you only need ask my wife about this. I didn’t shut up about it for nearly a year…

A. June 20, 2006 at 6:21 pm

I’ve had this happen to me, too. The novel wouldn’t have been written in a second — the brain would have been working on it for a long time prior. But in that moment the barriers to “seeing” it as a whole piece were removed: the threads were all tied together, if you will. The only problem with this creative method is sometimes not knowing what to do with the insights you get, which usually happens when you aren’t quite aware that you’re obsessed with something — or aren’t ready to really work a problem out.

I’m not entirely sure it really has to do with REM sleep. There’s a state of mind called hypnagogia where the mind is partially conscious, but not in a REM state, and this may be where such instant insights take place, since the background ratiocination is still taking place but the load of influx of stimuli from the world that has to be processed is taken away. Several years ago I was able to enter such a state fairly regularly when falling asleep and got a lot of fully fleshed out writing ideas from it. Eventually I stopped trying to reach this state, which is basically a matter of ignoring it on your way into full sleep … both because of changes to my schedule that made my sleep hours more irregular, and because, to be honest, it could get kind of scary.

Not exactly the instant insight method discussed, but of course if you concentrate on remembering dreams after waking from any sleep and write them down, you’ll often find that the dreams contain key words or images that are relevant to whatever you were thinking about the evening before.

June 20, 2006 at 6:58 pm

A, I totally agree. You’ve nailed it. These twilight dreams are sort of well packaged compilations.

Like you, it isn’t my preferred method of tapping the superconscious. After a couple of days of doing it, it can be tough to get to sleep at night because you are anticipating that “clang” of the ball hitting the tin plate and you can find yourself jarring yourself awake…at least me anyway.

Anybody else have a positive or negative story based on 1-second dreaming?

Kevin June 20, 2006 at 7:21 pm

Actually alcohol does that for me, – but only the smallest noticable doses, I start making these fantastic ideas (inventions) and I write them down, but most are out of my reach of possibility to make (or have very limited use).

June 20, 2006 at 9:33 pm

I too can fall into dreams before I even fall asleep. I think the majority of sleep research is based on a conservative model, and likely the average person is pretty sleep-screwed, which skews the data toward unremarkable results. Further, much research is ‘cleared of noise’, meaning they omit data outside of the (sometimes pre-designated) curve.

The only things that aren’t possible are what you think aren’t. And though drugs can aid…the body is far more powerful without them. Artifice is abdication.

June 22, 2006 at 7:54 pm

I just read about this idea recently in the book “Mind Performance Hacks.” The book has some great info on the idea along with lots of other interesting hacks.

June 22, 2006 at 8:06 pm

By Oreilly? I hadn’t heard of that book yet. I’ll have to look it up.

Anybody else read it?

July 4, 2006 at 12:28 pm

This is just hypnosis, or alpha/theta thinking. We all go through this state when waking up or falling asleep as well as, with our eyes open, when reading an exciting book, or driving on the highway.
In hypnosis, with the hypnotist, we expand this state so that you don’t need to figure it out in one second. But, you can see things from a different perspective and accept ideas and perceptions from deeper parts of your subconscious.

July 14, 2006 at 9:20 pm

There is extreme value in entering a twilight dream state briefly for problem solving.

Some people, I am certain, do this naturally. I know. I am one.

Others may find it difficult, but I suspect by practicing relaxation and breathing and guided imagery techniques, that they can train themselves to develop this capability.

As, I said, for some it is natural. As is synesthesia. I thought both were natural for everybody until about a decade ago when, in my early 40s, I had my first sleep latency test and learned that there is a medical diagnosis for this ability to close your eyes and enter dream state within 60 to 90 seconds at will. It’s called narcoplepsy or hypnogogic thinking.

Less than 10 percent of the population does this consistently, I was told.

(I learned at about the same time that most people don’t visualize shapes and colors when listening to music. That’s synesthesia. Since I had both of these “conditions” from childhood onward, I had assumed that they are just part of being human and common to all. Was quite a surprise to find out otherwise.)

Apparently, according to sleep-latency clinic studies, it takes the “average” person about 12 to 20 minutes to drift into the hypnogogic state.

It is at that point, using the technique cited in the article, that you would drop your ball bearings and awaken from a “one-second dream.”

I have found my creativity and productivity enhanced — particularly when writing books — by working until I am stuck, or feeling sleepy, and then taking a 20-minute nap (right in my office), expecting to awaken refreshed, unstuck, and eager to return to writing. Nearly always works.

This involves what some might consider a highly eccentric behavior, that is, working around the clock and sleeping in 20-minute spurts rather than for one extended eight-hour period every 24 hours.

Works well for me, when I choose to do it, even if it does not fit social expectations.

I’ve never done this for more than a couple month’s at a time. And have never done it when I wasn’t deeply devoted to a single creative project.

It has seemed like part of the creative discipline and focus to me at those times.

I think it would be difficult to practice this while working an 8 to 5 shift in an office and keeping scheduled appointments.


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Isola Busuyi August 21, 2006 at 2:11 am

I am writing a doctoral paper on this subject. If you know business leaders that have successfully used this technique in the past to achieve great result please e-mail me about it. I need at least 40 stories from any part of the world. I will send you a free copy of one of my books for every story I get. Thanks.

Rebecca February 7, 2007 at 8:24 am

This is a great discussion. Thanks for letting me chime in. What works best for me, a professional writer, is running. The ideas start percolating up and generally I have several to write down by the time I get back to the car.

Dennnis February 15, 2007 at 12:17 am



Paz September 20, 2008 at 2:32 pm

Also important to note that the human mind enters a state close to hyposis as the body falls asleep and wakes up.

Also thanx for the info very enlightening.

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