Throughout the generations, resourceful geniuses have found strange and unique ways to get the creative juices flowing. For example, Beethoven would stand at his washbasin, pouring large pitchers of water over his hands and singing out loud to develop new symphonic material.

And Thomas Edison famously refused to sleep while a significant discovery was in the works. He would often go 72 hours straight before turning in for some shuteye. Even then, he hypothesized that sleeping represented a “heritage from our cave days,” and he refused to indulge in much more than three hours at a time, per Financial Post.

Great minds of the past knew how to push themselves to their limits to create. But few stumbled across a method that could work for just about anyone. That’s what makes Salvador Dalí’s sleep technique to boost creativity so fascinating. Keep reading to learn more about this method and how you can use it anytime a little inspiration is in order.

Surreal Dream Techniques Revealed

Surreal Dali Photograph

Library of Congress, digital ID ppmsca.09633

Salvador Dalí achieved remarkable fame during his lifetime as a surrealist painter and hung out with fellow artists like René Magritte, Pablo Picasso, and Miró. Among his most recognized works is The Persistence of Memory, painted in 1931 and depicting melting clocks within an eerie, surreal landscape. According to Biography, “By the mid-1930s, Dalí had become as notorious for his colorful personality as his artwork.”

How did Dalí maintain a fresh stream of artistic inspiration throughout his career? One of his favorite techniques involved strategic sleeping. This was an approach also used by Thomas Edison to up his chances of creating something brilliant. The concept involved waking up during the sleep stage where reality starts to blend with fantasy.

Waking Up Creativity

To help Dalí enter the right state when he went to sleep, he would nod off to dreamland while holding a ball or spoon. Then, as Dalí entered unconsciousness, the object would fall from his hand, startling him awake. The surrealist artist would be ideally situated to start working, having spent a few moments on the edge of unconsciousness.

This stage of sleep comes early in the nighttime cycle and is known as the hypnagogic state or N1. Hypnagogia lasts for mere minutes and ends as the sleeper nods off into deeper sleep patterns. That is, unless you can pull a Salvador Dalí and wake up at the ideal moment. If you can catch yourself in the zone, it permits you to imagine colors, shapes, and bits of dreams. You’ll see these images flashing before your eyes while still hearing what’s going on around you.

Embed from Getty Images

Proving Dalí Got It Right

To test how effectively Dalí’s sleep technique works, sleep researcher Delphine Oudiette enlisted 103 recruits for a sleep study. All subjects had to be in excellent health and exhibit the ability to fall asleep quickly. The day before the study, they were asked not to consume any stimulants and to get a little less sleep than usual. This primed them for reaching hypnagogia quickly and efficiently.

Before the snoozing started, Oudiette gave each participant the same math problem. The participants would need to come to the same hidden conclusion to solve the problem. Surprisingly, Oudiette discovered that sleepers who entered the hypnagogic stage for at least 15 seconds had an 83 percent higher chance of coming to the same hidden conclusion and solving the problem. But the trick remained waking up and diving into a task before falling too deeply into sleep.

It’s no surprise that many of us have felt creatively stifled recently. Reignite your spark as you turn the pages of the latest Ripley’s Believe It or Not! book, Out of the Box!

By Engrid Barnett, contributor for


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