Edison, Invention and Sleep

“…a man does need his rest, and Edison was not above the occasional catnap — provided it was not devoted solely to sleep. Like most people, he noticed that insights and brainstorms often occur at the edges of sleep — when the border guard of the prefrontal cortex is going off duty and the more bohemian precincts like the occipital lobe, where imagery is processed, are free to play. But those insights can be fleeting, lost forever if the sleep that allowed them to exist in the first place overtakes you before you can wake up and write them down. So Edison would nap sitting up in a chair, with his arms draped over the sides and a steel ball in each hand. On the floor on either side of the chair was a metal pan. If he fell too deeply asleep, the balls would fall with a clatter, awakening him in time for him to rescue any useful thought before it flashed back into the cognitive vapor.”1

Citations

  1. Time Magazine, November 25, 2013, The Spark of Invention, Jeffrey Kluger []
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