Flash Nap





Introduction: Flash Nap

About: Tim Anderson is the author of the "Heirloom Technology" column in Make Magazine. He is co-founder of www.zcorp.com, manufacturers of "3D Printer" output devices. His detailed drawings of traditional Pacific...

How I use a flashing bicycle light to make a nap more refreshing.
Like other forms of meditation, don't expect it to work for you on the first try.

Here I am taking a ten minute nap in a closet.

I've got a red LED bicycle flasher resting on my right eye.
It's flashing at about 6.5 times a second.
I'm wearing my jackhammer headphones to block out distracting noises and so people won't expect me to answer them if they talk to me.

The flasher is acting as a simple "mind machine" a.k.a. "light and sound machine", which are devices that help a person control their brainwave activity. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mind_machine
Biofeedback and meditation are other methods of achieving the similar results. Once you've reached a very relaxed state, the body and brain can do some of their recovery functions faster than sleep.

A typical mindmachine is a device with goggles containing flashing lights and headphones that play a throbbing sound. They exploit a phenomenon called "entrainment". The brain's electrical activity seen on an EEG(electroencephalograph) is pretty noisy and fuzzy, but there are discernable periodic fluctuations "brainwaves". If the flashing frequency is near the brainwave frequency, the brainwave will speed up or slow down to match the frequency of the flashing. Then when you speed up or slow down the flashing, the brainwave will also tend to speed up or slow down to match.

A crackpot friend of mine had a bunch of these things. They're fun to play with and you see nifty visual patterns and colors that aren't in the lights . At some point I "got it" and had a session that was like a really great nap but better. So I bought my own machine.
When I was too tired or anxious to get anything done, I'd sneak off to a closet and do a session.
Then my device broke when I needed a supernap. So I looked around for something that flashed in the same way. I had a bunch of different bike flashers and tried putting them on my eyes to see if anything happened. One of them in particular worked well. When I put it on my right eye and looked into the static I could see patterns. I already knew what it felt like, so it was easy to get there. It doesn't change frequency, but it's slower than my brain when I need to use it, so it's sort of like training wheels for meditation.

When I started doing this I was working pretty hard and getting burned out. I tried a bunch of stuff, some of which worked for me. One such thing was Melatonin. To find out how I use Melatonin to improve my sleep, see the next step.

Step 1: Melatonin and Sleep Management

Some people use Melatonin as a sleeping pill. I use it to synchronize my body clock to be awake during the day. This method works for me, your mileage may vary.
Melatonin, sunlight, and a few other things give your body signals as to what time of day it is.

When I'm feeling jetlagged I'll take half of one of these Melatonin tablets at 9:30pm local time. About 20 minutes later I'll feel really sleepy and sleep-deprived. Usually I stay up later and try to get to sleep by midnight. The next morning I'll wake up just before 8am feeling pretty good. This system only seems to work if I get some exposure to sunlight during the day and some exercise.

You don't have to get on an airplane to get jetlagged.
When you cheat the sandman by burning the midnight oil, you're doing two things: staying up late and exposing yourself to artificial light. Your body reads these signals and shifts its sleep schedule forward to match the new "day". So the next day you get up early for work and you feel lousy. You've got two problems. You're sleep-deprived, and your body clock is messed up with jetlag.
Jetlag is much worse than mere sleep-deprivation because your body is trying really hard to shut down while you'd rather be awake. Your body's systems can even get out of sync with each other, so no matter how much sleep you get or when, you still don't feel rested.

While building a company I was at work at 8am every day for five years.
I stayed up til midnight or later every night. I'd take a halfhour nap at lunch and a couple of flash naps in a closet during the day.
In the mornings I'll still feel a bit sleep-deprived because I was indeed sleep-deprived, but I wasn't jetlagged.

The first time I tried Melatonin I had a lot of dreams and woke up around 4am with lots of energy.
My friends report similar experiences. After that I would just wake up around 7:30 feeling pretty good.



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    37 Discussions

    for about a year now, I've been sleeping at all sorts of weird hours, and i recently bought a crummy hammock from a yard sale, i patched up the hole, and have been sleeping outside, turns out, for me, at least, the secret to waking at a decent hour is just letting the sun hit your face, and I've started dreaming again, tonight, I'm adding a blinker to my face and hoping for the best :)

    1 reply

    aww man ,,that sounds familair but my out doors man ship is ummm well any ways seems that i really enjoy watching the stars before sunrise becouse when the sun is going down every light in town light up, in the morning all the lights turn off for about 1 hour before the sun comes up..and its the best time to star gaze....and i dont know about that sun thing i woke up after the after noon outside and was like , man its hot out here lol...
    i think if you think about your actuall truly biological clock, and i would bet that the cave men werent sleeping every 16 hours....more like chase the women and animals around for about 24 hours then get some sleep...its the industrial age ,and so subliminial its upsetting.....

    ow yea and about the sleeping biologic clock depression and not being awake when you want to be and all that............i believe that before society was constructed soley on a 9-5 basis that we were forced to adopt to that scheadule and i would like to point out that i also belieave that our nature biological clock is sleep 12 hours awake 24,,,,when body repairs sleep 6 hours awake for 18....not that im trying to impress my fealing of 9-5 is a form of slavery ,becouse it says we are to wake when the sun rises,well if you seem to not beable to sleep enough or tomuch so you can keep up with the races then move eithor east or west according to your preferance to be on an awakened mind set with every one else around you..personaly it takes me about one day to boot my humoungus brain up...lol take care my friend.

    check it, the element they use to create the red light in flourescent bulbs and the rate at whitch they are programed for diff treatments would blow your socks off.. now i dont know what kind of music your listening to but its all about the frequince waves and the effects it has on your bodies electro feild, sounds like your around a people with what they call "bad vibes" we that is a proven fact that we all send and receive signals from one another, but with the music the detox box ,will push out some power,but for the more seriouse you would want something that pushes out more power, but ...........i just want to tell you its the element in the bulb when the energy passes through it sends a certain pulse, and a good spot would be on the sides of your neck were your thyroid glands will get the most benifets....

    wow, you take half of a 1 mg pill? My doses are usually 6-9 mg...I guess my "mileage may vary." But I can't help but wonder how this will affect me down the line...

    this one got me thinking....
    i went and looked up the mind machine stuff but it seemed awfuly expensive. So then i found http://www.i-glassesstore.com/ but they too are expensive as well. I-glasses are actually computer screen glasses. The advantage would be you could add more visuals... and you also have the option of using them as a normal screen.

    They are a bit out of my priceline but would it be possible to make them with cell phone lcds?

    3 replies

    I just tryed the screen is too pixelated

    Is this at all dangerous? Don't flashing lights trigger seizures in some people?

    1 reply

    some people, and people who knew they were prone to that would have to be pretty dumb to put a flashing light on there eye and fall asleep

    When I was too tired or anxious to get anything done, I'd sneak off to a closet and do a session. The sentence, taken out of context, was humorous to me. That's what everyone does :P

    Weird, they say on 12 tips to get a better nights sleep (sorry no link, somewhere on digg though) you should always keep lights very far away from your eyes.

    Well when you put it like that....

    I'm using a cheapy one I got at the department store. I think it flashes around 2 times per second. Ideally a "mind machine" would start at say 15hz or so and slowly ramp down. This should be easy to build with a PC. Run the LEDs off the printer port and have the initial soothing raindrops or whatever playing through the soundproof headphones. You could pipe in the alarm too, whenever you programmed yourself to wake up. 2hz brainwaves is deep, deep sleep, and that's what happens. It took a bit for my brainwaves sync up, but when they did, I was out like a light. Really, I was already sleepy, but I felt I fell asleep much faster. When my alarm went off 2 hours later I got up and felt refreshed. However, I still had the urge to take a nap later that afternoon. I haven't tried the melatonin, or the blue light LEDs, but they seem like good ideas. I know I suffer from SAD.

    2 replies

    A BASIC Stamp with the LEDs would sure solve the strobe frequency problem, and make the optional throb sound. Of course, you can use other microcontrollers.

    I will try this. I have a basic stamp and looking for something to use it with. If I want to get "the most" out of a regular nights sleep, what frequency should I use?

    Typically, taking a substance that is naturally produced by the body (i.e. melatonin) can lead to reduced natural production and thereby cause dependancy. Once in awhile is okay, but unless you've a medical condition reducing your natural production, I wouldn't suggest taking it regularly.