Using Hypnagogia for Creativity

Many artists, writers, mystics, philosophers and scientists have used hypnagogia to break through creative brick walls. These have included Beethoven, the German composer, Isaac Newton, the English scientist; Aristotle, the Greek philosopher; Robert Desnos, the French surrealist poet and Edgar Allan Poe, the American writer.

Observed hypnagogia can inspire not just flashes of insight and, occasionally, genius but also images and sounds. I keep on my bedside cabinet a pen and notepad, because I know for a fact that sometimes I just got that moment of inspiration that will lead to great results.

Hypnagogic states are highly creative. Not just they are extremely productive, packing a high density of ideas into a short period of time but also they are extremely novel, throwing together ideas and thoughts that might never have cropped up to you otherwise. Those moments express the incredible flexibility of the mind; in spite of being extremely complex the results you can get are extremely rewarding. They transform existing ideas and objects into something totally new.

The best is still to come: we all have access to this state! With it we can do as much as we like without doing harm to ourselves and the more we use it the more productive it will become.

Think again of Thomas Edison. Was he just some guy who napped a lot? Was he a particularly innovative inventor? I say that the two go hand in hand. Walk hand in hand with your unconscious, work together and succeed.

Control Your Experience

As you practice and develop your ability to enter a hypnagogic state, you can start to try and do more with these experiences. Although you can’t directly control the hallucinations, you can try to suggest things to the mind.

As an important tip I suggest that you remain relaxed and let it happen, whatever it is. Anxiety and/or excitement will provoke your alarm systems and you will wake up. You’re much in control as much as the hallucination is.

Record Your Experience

See the possibilities! Explore them! Use them! What’s the point of having a hypnagogic experience just as an entertainment? So make an attempt to record it. If you want to make something creative out of the hallucination then you must write it down immediately afterwards, whilst you are still in the warmth of the experience, otherwise it will fade quickly and vanish.

I keep a note pad and a pen by my bedside cabinet as I said but you can record the experience by verbally reporting the images as they are happening using a Smartphone. Verbal reporting is very useful but don’t look for the right words, grammar or intellectual concern for the expression of abstract ideas. Just record the images and ideas, rather than scrabbling for a pen immediately afterwards.


Hypnagogia has a partner: hypnopompia, the transition from sleep to wakefulness. Hypnopompia is probably the more common experience.

Most people very often have this sort of hallucination in the mornings, in particular if your alarm goes off early and you use the snooze button. The downside is that it only happens once a day! Nevertheless, you might as well indulge when you can.

Now: Experiment!

This is all fascinating and extremely theoretical. Hypnagogia as well as sleep and dreaming, is not well-understood by anyone – and I definitely don’t state that I have the answers! All I expect is that I have given you something to think about, to explore further and to test within your own life.

Author: Nuno Leitao

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