24 February 2024
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At the fringe between wakefulness and sleep, there is a grey zone where our consciousness fluctuates, our responsiveness decreases and our awareness of the real world starts to dissolve, giving way to spontaneous sensations close to dreaming.

Brief and fleeting, this sleep onset phase remains a mystery that has long intrigued artists, scientists and inventors, who considered the period fertile ground for insights and discoveries.

Among those, German chemist August Kékulé reported how a daydream of a snake biting its own tail revealed to him the circular structure of benzene.

Thomas Edison and Salvador Dali were both so convinced of the creative virtues of sleep onset that they developed a method to catch these brief insights. Their secret was simple: they took naps while holding an object in their hand. The said object would fall and make noise as their muscles relaxed at the transition to sleep, waking them up in time to write down the illuminations occurring during this pre-sleep period.

But is catching creative ideas at sleep onset the mark of geniuses or is it accessible to everyone?

Solving problems

To find out if a muse hides at the gates of sleep, we compared the ability of volunteers to solve a problem after a cat nap compared to volunteers staying awake.

Our hypothesis…

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Abdul Gh Lone

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