Tag Archives: Thomas Edison

Why Genius Demands Down Time


Christina Dunham | The Sociaholic - Cat Nap

One of my favorite all-time activities – then and now – is taking a nap.

While many believe that sitting still is a luxury very few can afford, it’s exactly the kind of thing that everyone should indulge in. We live in a sleep deprived nation of over-achievers and workaholics consumed with climbing the top of Mt. Never Rest. We brag about lack of sleep and complain of long days, not realizing the stopping for a moment is exactly what’s going to help us with progressing forward.

Does genius demand down time? Inventor Thomas Alva Edison certainly thought so. He is reputed to take several cat naps during the day to help fuel his creativity. As Donald Mitchell, author of Adventures of an Optimist puts it, “lounging can be a purposeless way of being more purposeful by letting your unconscious mind come out.”

Need more convincing? Other famed practitioners of cat napping include Albert Einstein, John D. Rockefeller, Winston Churchill, Leonardo Da Vinci, and Ronald Regan. Besides its recuperative benefits, studies have shown that napping helps improve long-term memory, boosts alertness and creativity, and enhances productivity for up to 10 hours. Even our Pinoy predecessors knew the value of taking a siesta.

What’s the optimal interval for a power nap? It seems 20 to 45 minutes does the trick, when the body can benefit from the first two stages of sleep. A complete sleep cycle takes about 90-110 minutes and comprises of following stages:

Stage 1:  Falling asleep, or hypnagogia, the transition state between wakefulness and sleep

Stage 2:  Light sleep, when brain activity and heart rate slows down (about 10-20 minutes after falling asleep)

Stage 3:  Slow-wave sleep (occurs about half-way into the sleep-cycle). The feeling of grogginess and confusion occurs if woken up during this stage.

Stage 4:  Deep sleep (the regeneration stage)

Stage 5:  REM-sleep (the dream stage)

To avoid crossing over into Stage 3 sleep, Thomas Edison would hang on to a handful of ball-bearings, which dropped to the floor as he fully relaxed, thus waking him up. Other inventors have followed suit, releasing a suite of products specifically designed for power nappers. For example, there is the Sleeptracker Pro, worn like a watch, which monitors signals from your body and wakes you up at the best possible point in your sleep cycle. Then there’s the MetroNap EnergyPod, provided to employees by companies like Proctor&Gamble, a dentist-chair like lounger with a half-dome that envelopes your upper body, and a built-in timer to wake you up via a combination of light and vibration.

As Carrie Snow tells us, “No day is so bad it can’t be fixed with a nap.”  Next time you find yourself sluggish in the middle of a work-day, retreat to your desk, put up a “do not disturb” sign, and take a cue from Kindergarteners… take a nap.

The Immobile Arts


Waking up at the crack of noon, I hesitated peeling the eye mask off my face for fear that the explosion of sunlight might trigger a sneezing fit. It was another weekend of back-to-back gigs with my band, and I decide to savor the last few moments of darkness provided by my trusty eye mask, sandwiched between my fluffy comforter and comfy pillow-top mattress.I started counting in my head… 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12… good. That means I’ve had about eight hours of sleep now.

Next on the agenda, 30 minutes of slowly rising into a sitting position to watch SpongeBob SquarePants. First up, it’s the episode where SpongeBob’s klutzy cousin Stanley S. SquarePants comes to visit. As I turn up the volume, the following conversation ensues:

SpongeBob SquarePants (character)Patrick:  Looking for your calling, huh? Hmmm. So what are you good at?

Stanley:  Nothing.

Patrick:  Nothing at all?

Stanley:  Yep.

Patrick:  Interesting. Let’s see how good you are at nothing.

SpongeBob: That’s perfect! Patrick can do nothing better than anyone! You’ll be learning from the master!

Patrick: Come with me. First, sit down on this chair. Clear your mind. Empty it of all thoughts. Until you’re doing absooooluuuuuutely nooooothiiiiiiing (Patrick hunches over with glazed eyes, drool suspended in mid-air, to the sound of a cow mooing)

Stanley sits, but no sooner, his foot starts tapping, eyes start twitching, sweat rolling down his forehead, the ticking clock pounding in his brain. Hard as he tries, he just can’t sit still.

Stanley:  I can’t do it!!!!

Patrick: You’re not worthy of instruction in the Immobile Arts! Leave my presence!!!

Ah, yes. The Immobile Arts. The art of doing absolutely nothing. Now how many of you actually practice this? We are a society of super-achievers and wonder-women, multi-taskers with over-booked calendars. While I am guilty of pushing the limits of endurance and sanity, there is one thing I have learned to do quite well – nothing.

Several years ago, while attending a professional business women’s conference inSan Francisco, I sat in on a talk by a woman who espoused “mastering the tyrant within.” One of the messages that really stuck was that “sometimes, good enough is good enough.” Caught up in a perfection-obsessed world, this was news to me. Growing up, my adult role-models always encouraged me to “do better, do more” and so it was a never-ending quest to get to the top of Mt.Never-Rest.

After that conference, I took inventory of everything I did, and carefully determined which activities demanded perfection, and which didn’t. Super-squeaky clean floors? I can live with dust-bunnies here and there. Community involvement? Only as a volunteer for select events and fundraisers. Corporate ladder?  I like the flexibility of working from home. I don’t need to run the world. As I slowly re-organized my life and re-arranged my priorities, my me-time increased and my stress level dropped significantly.

I then decided that the one activity requiring perfection was the art of doing nothing, which I discovered, was a critical part of doing everything else well.