Sleep Your Way to the Top
Updated: Mar 15, 2019
If you think “sleep is a waste of time” as a colleague once told me during my corporate years, then you are missing out on one of most easily cultivated productivity tools of the 21st century.
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It is always with excitement that I wake up in the morning
wondering what my intuition will toss up to me, like gifts from the sea.
I work with it and rely on it. It’s my partner.
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In sleep, your body rests and restores while your subconscious uniquely synthesizes content retrieved from disparate file drawers. Without you lifting a finger, it advances your projects, which frees your bandwidth during waking hours to apply new insights.
“While you are asleep, your mind is diligently working to solve problems for you,” writes Dr. Eric Maisel, in his workshop notes, Your Best Life in the Arts. “Start to take advantage of this process by asking questions about your creative project as you fall asleep,” continues Dr. Maisel. “Don’t go to bed thinking about all you want to do or hope for a given project, actively trying to solve the problem or answer the question. That only keeps you up ruminating. Rather, fall asleep with a kind of wonder and curiosity about what might happen next with your project, confident that your brain is at work for you.”
In their book, The Net and the Butterfly: the Art and Practice of Breakthrough Thinking, Olivia Fox Cabane and Judah Pollack provide many high profile examples of the “incredible breakthrough power of the hypnagogic and hypnopompic states, the half-asleep periods just before falling asleep and just before waking. These are times when our genius council runs on hyperdrive.” The authors describe how Adam Cheyer, co-creator of Siri, Apple’s artificial intelligence iPhone voice assistant, would go to bed “noodling on a problem” as he fell asleep.
“Morning after morning, while first designing Siri, Cheyer woke up with new insights from his Default Network, the council of breakthrough geniuses inside the brain. As Cheyer slept, the geniuses talked and exchanged ideas, half-baked theories, and wild speculations. Then in the morning, Cheyer went to his desk and with his Executive Network [the goal-oriented and deadline-focused mode of thinking] harvested the night’s ideas and integrated them into the prototype he was building. Eventually he felt that he had something concrete enough to show the world.”
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