Sleep without Sleeping

posted in: Uncategorized | 41

Or the art of the magic nap for energy and creativity boosts

May 10th, 2011

Salvador Dali wrote about this technique that he called, “Slumber with a key”. He featured it as one of his 50 secrets of magic craftsmanship. Dali presents this afternoon nap as a means of lucid dreaming (though one could argue it is more along the lines of hynagogia). It lasts less than a minute, in fact, even a second could be too long! Dali recommends that the slumber last even less than a quarter of a second. “Sleep without Sleeping’.

For the quick highlights on how to harness this ultra-nap:


1. Sleep sitting upright (Dali recommends a Spanish-style bony armchair)

2. Hold a key in your hand, between your fingers (for the bohemian, use a skeleton key)

3. Relax and fall asleep (but not for too long…)

4. As you fall asleep, you’ll drop the key. Clang bang clang!

5. Wake up inspired!



Dali claims that he learned this ‘slumber with a key’ method from the Capuchin Monks of Toledo; however I couldn’t find a citation on this. Nevertheless, this napping method has been attributed to Aristotle and Einstein as well.

The idea is that you release your mind as part of a cognitive conditioning that heightens awareness and sensitivity while inducing the deepest dream moments. Wow that sounds intense! Basically, it lets your mind wander just long enough to let your creative juices flow. I realize this sounds absurd, or in the very least, quite silly. But if it’s good enough for Dali, well I figured why not for me?

I’ve been practicing this little napping method for eight weeks now and it’s been relatively successful. In the very least, I can take an ultra-short one-quarter-of-a-second nap anytime anywhere and I almost always wake up feeling refreshed and energetic. Now I’m trying to harness that inspiration! I’ll keep an update if I find more success with it. I’d be happy to hear if anyone else has given this a try, or if you’re up for the challenge of ‘slumber with a key’.


What do you have to lose: one second of wakefulness?

41 Responses

  1. I am not very good at napping. I need to practice. My mind id always going a million miles a minute. Maybe I will try this when I start my morning meditation. Oh…. I am starting morning meditation. Wanna do it with me?

    Good luck with your creativity napping. I will say the hammock sleeping gave me extra energy… so maybe this will too.

    • I believe Dali recommends doing this nap in the afternoon, but I’ve done it just before going to bed and it’s work, so why not try it any time? πŸ™‚

      As for morning meditation, I’d like to do that in theory, but practice is so much harder…

  2. Mark Robertson

    Strange: just listened to an interview with journalist/author Paul Hammel. He said his transition from journalism to fiction came in the power of the nap.

    He’d think about the possibility of characters and situations and in some kind of neuro-alchemy he’d awake with a deeper knowledge of what he wanted to say.

    I’ve also heard that, according to semitic tradition, a new “day” begins at 8pm. 20hours!

    This is a great new way to imagination the way we cultivate our time. There is this kind of passive creativity–a receptivity that always precedes my best work.

    Dali takes it to the magic, the “nuclear mysticism.” And I can’t argue with his work.

    Love what you have going on here.

    P.S. Born and bred in Encinitas–on surfing, pollo assado burritos. Live in Brazil now…hope to have further conversation

    • Thanks for sharing the link! I’m going to have to take a gander at that. I’m certainly interested in pursuing this further. There does seem to be some hidden gems that creep into life during those precious moments between consciousness. I’m trying to figure out how to harness them now.

      Encinitas is the spot! I spent some time in North County and I sure do miss the surf up there. Any chance I get for waves up there, I’m in. I imagine the warmer waters of Brazil is a nice change up though. Let’s keep connecting!

  3. Mark Robertson

    (I meant Pete Hamill: Time for bed πŸ˜‰

  4. Hey David,
    This is an intriguing idea! I used to be able to cat nap but stopped doing it for many years and seemed to lose the skill. I’m in the process of mastering it again, but this idea has captured my imagination! You said it took eight weeks to master it? Thanks for this!
    I’m very happy to have found your blog!

    • Well, I am still working on it so I can’t claim mastery yet*. But I am determined. That and lucid dreaming. I am very fascinated by the prospects. Keep me posted on how it works out for you. I’m all for advice sharing πŸ™‚

  5. ooops! I put in the wrong URL! This is the right one!
    Have a good one!

  6. This happens to me a lot. It’s not really intentional, just that I have small children and they tend to plow into you the moment you’ve dropped off in the middle of the afternoon. I have noticed that it is oddly very refreshing, and very different from hypnogogia (and way off from lucid dreaming). Interesting that you posted this as I was just addressing this last week regarding images flashing through my mind a few seconds before falling asleep at night and being woken suddenly.

  7. Micamyx

    I was just reading about Salvador Dali and Lorca when I stumbled here through Steve’s blog πŸ˜€

    To be honest, my ideas are wilder when i wake up from a deep nap. It’s like they explode on my face when i open my eyes LOL

    • The deep nap technique huh? Please provide pointers! I may need to explore this option…

  8. Any lucid dreaming involved yet David?

    Friends and I have tried a cheese overload as ‘apparently’ this leads to lucid dreaming. Outcome = unsuccessful.

    • Lucid dreaming is definitely at the top of my list. Though quite different than the slumber with a key, I am really into the idea of wakefulness and sleep. I haven’t had a lot of success with lucid dreaming. I can manipulate flying dreams fairly easily, which I love to do. And I have been doing that since I was a kid, so I’m not sure how to start doing it. I also didn’t realize what I was doing when I was a kid. Funny how that works… I was astral traveling all the time in kindergarten, but the adults would have said I was just spacing out.

  9. I love this idea. Sleep gives our brains time to process and allows parts of our brain that we might not access,especially when on info overload, to take a stab at it. When we wake we often have new insight as well as creativity. I often will nap or go into deep sleep having the thing I am working on as the focus so my brain is engaged with the idea as I drift off. It really does work! Thanks for the added details about this technique!

    • I’m thrilled to hear such great feedback! It is encouraging to know others are trying to expand their minds and creativities. This idea that dreams can unlock hidden parts of our creative minds is really alluring to me.

  10. Definitely sounds like an interesting and creative way to stay creative! I love that there’s a key involved to ‘unlock’. I’m a little lost on the technique though. I most certainly can’t fall asleep in under a minute!!

    • Funny… I didn’t even put the key thing together. But you’re right. It also makes a nice clanging sound.

      The trick to fall asleep quickly is practice. Yeah I know, bad trick. But I’ve been working on it for years and I’m really getting that part down. It’s come in handy for this new experiment, though Dali suggests the falling asleep in the chair process to take 20 minutes or so…

  11. Hey David,

    Awesome stuff! I love me a good power nap. I just found your blog and I’m loving it. Keep up the great work.


    • Thanks for the encouragement Tony! This little technique is the ultimate power nap. Think about it: a power nap in less than a fraction of a second.

      It’s crazy good. I’ll be popping by your blog now to see what you’re up to. Thanks for coming by!

  12. Todd | Channelingmyself

    I have another suggestion, go to sleep next to a toddler and a kitten, you will get several of these moments in no time.

    • Todd, I’m quickly seeing that I can depend on you to drop the funnier comments πŸ™‚

      I guess having a toddler and a kitten means you are getting the ultimate in ultra-power-naps. I hope it’s sparking the creativity too!

  13. Annie Andre

    This is amazing. It sounds too good to be true. i love taking power naps, but sometimes my naps are too long and i end up being so drowsy right after. A five minute nap is perfect. But wow, if i could just be able to close my eyes for a second and wake refreshed and inspired how grand would that be.

    You’ll have to give a tutorial so us novices can get on board and give it a go.

    • Well I’m not quite sure I’m the expert yet, since I just laid down to take a ‘slumber with a key’ and I zonked out for fifteen minutes. Still feeling good, but the idea is a less than a fraction of a second. I guess it’s just lots of practice. Practice I am very willing to do! πŸ™‚

  14. Reporting on my little experiment here David!
    I actually read this post a while ago and set out to try it. I eventually came out with this result: IT’s NOT EASY!
    Will love to hear how you are getting along with it so far.

    Martinsays: Thanks

    • Well keep trying! I think it’s worth the effort. In the very least, when you’re tired, just lay down and try to fall asleep. But hold your keys or something that will clang bang you back awake. I’ve been having 50/50 success and it’s getting better every time.

  15. Marco Lee

    You know sometimes my mother steals my pc and because of that I can’t work… So I take a nap and rejuvenate.

    After she finishes playing farmville, I am then good to go! πŸ™‚

    • Well Marco, next time try to take a less-than-one-second-nap. Give it a try! Maybe you’ll come away from it thankful your mother is hijacking your computer!

  16. daigoumee

    What a great resource!

    • I’m glad you’ve found it to be useful. I’m keen for feedback if anyone else has been trying it!

  17. The Insufferable Senor Steengo

    I remember this episode of Seinfeld. Didn’t work too well for Kramer.

    • Hah! πŸ™‚ I will have to look that one up. The trick lies in actually washing your hair still, just sans the ‘poo.

  18. Laura M. | smash your t.v. and have adventures

    This is very true. Often, when I’m in the passenger seat of a car during a long drive, I’ll fall asleep for half a second, only to be awoken quickly by the car bouncing along the road or the subconscious awareness that I’m falling asleep and must stay awake. When I wake up, I’m far more awake and refreshed than I was a few seconds ago!

    • I read this as when you are driving. That would have made for some more intense experimentation πŸ™‚

  19. Re-post: Engaging the creative mind » the rebel i

    […] […]

  20. […] you’re sleeping well, you’re living well. I’m fascinated by sleep experiments, so I’m almost always willing to take a plunge on something. In this case, the hammock life […]

  21. Will try it. Thanks,

    Recently I discovered an amazing insomnia cure.

    When trying to get off to sleep:

    Inhale–count “1” then “2” slowly

    Exhale–count “1” then “2” slowly.

    Concentrate on nothing but the numbers and your breathing. I have tried it for a month and I’m usually out in a few minutes.

  22. Hi David,

    Just found your site and I am enjoying what I have read so far (loved the warehouse post).

    This I have to try. Although I am having some trouble feeling refreshed after 7 hours sleep these days. I think I may need to use a bunch of keys attached to some bells to ensure I actually wake up again πŸ™‚

    I will be reading more of your posts so keep them coming.


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  24. […] Slumber with a key won’t help me here. There is likely no relief. Just grit those teeth and bear it. That, and let my eardrums bleed. So what do you do what interruption looms? I can expect that from 2am-4am, I will be awoken and sleep will be unavailable. Judging from their slow pace, it’ll be a at least another week of this… The anticipation alone is enough to damn near kill a man. […]

  25. […] Salvador Dali is said to have sat in a chair, with a key on a string hanging from his fingers, and relax, drifting off to sleep whilst loosely thinking about a piece he was working on. When he dozed off the key would fall from his fingers, clanging on the floor and waking him. He would then get up and immediately work, using his dream-like thoughts to develop his art. Given his paintings, this is hardly surprising. […]

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