5 minute naps
A siesta can be a source of ideas.
Photo by Marcin Jozwiak on Unsplash
When I was younger, I detested naps. I had FOMO before it was even a thing. Sleeping happened at night - and even then, it should be as short as possible.
Flash forward to today and I crave getting more sleep. Most of us do of course.
Yet while you've probably guessed the gist of this post - that 'napping helps with creativity' - I must be honest: I've struggled with our cultural bias towards having a daytime nap.
The American Founding Father Benjamin Franklin once wrote:
"...waste not life; in the grave will be sleeping enough."
Which these days is commonly translated as "I'll sleep when I'm dead."
But more evidence is arriving by the day that having a nap makes you more productive, not less.
Who knows what office work will look like after the pandemic. Back in the olden days, Google had become synonymous with pioneering work time naps, via their use of EnergyPods.
Now all the talk is of spending fewer days in the office, once the 'new normal' kicks in. So if we're only heading in to work for 2-3 days a week, maybe employers won't be that keen on us snoring our way through it. Our only napping option would have to be the tried and tested method of sitting in a toilet cubicle resting our head against the wall.
Still, the more time we spend working from home, the less excuse we have for not having a snooze. I'm saying that to myself as much as anything.
I used to think of naps as taking away my creative firepower - like going to sleep would erase what I'd been thinking about. But I came to learn that forty winks (or even just closing your eyes without nodding off) actually provides a creative boost in the following way:
When I'm working on a creative problem - writing, thinking up an ad campaign, storylining, whatever - I tend to immerse myself as much as possible in the subject matter. Much of that can be research and brainstorming. But it's mostly just pure slog - putting one metaphorical foot in front of the other, trying to reach the finish line of a fully formed idea.
At the same time though, I know this approach is only half the recipe for a creative breakthrough. In some woo-woo way, coming up with an idea involves a kind of magic where the unconscious takes over at some point, taking all the ingredients you've fed into it and delivering back a creative dish. Or cake. Yeah - I'm going with 'creative cake' (no-one's inspired by 'creative salad' are they).
This is the 'nonlinear' part of the creative process. And since there's nothing more 'nonlinear' in your day than being asleep, why not give yourself a break and spend it having a catnap. The answer to your creative problem might be hiding in your dreams! (well, technically we dream during REM sleep, from around 90 mins after we fall asleep).
All I know is, my reluctant resting nearly always leads to a creative breakthrough when I allow a bit of sleepy time to bring all the connections together.
It's especially effective at home, as a pillow is a hell of a lot more comfortable than a toilet roll holder.