Every time you go to sleep, you pass through a process called hypnagogia. This mental state is the line between “sleeping” and “awake,” or the state most of us are in at work (sorry).

Sleep scientists can’t even agree on whether it should be classified as a phase of sleep.

I like to picture a bunch of scientists arguing about whether their colleagues fell asleep at their desks.

Hypnagogia is believed to promote creativity and freedom of thought, so researchers from MIT have been investigating techniques to allow people to remain in this state longer.

The result is a device called Dormio, and they think it might be able to boost creativity.


As you begin to drift off to sleep, you may not realize you’re losing consciousness. In hypnagogia, you can experience fleeting hallucinations that mix with reality. If they really wanted to achieve this, they should just pop some LSD and trip out.

LOL JK, dont do drugs, kids.

People in this state can carry on conversations they don’t remember, and may not realize they had been unconscious if awoken. Many of history’s greatest thinkers have sought to dwell in this phase for as long as possible to better understand their work. One example was Thomas Edison who slept with steel balls which would drop as he fell asleep and wake him up.

Dormio takes a similar approach by giving the sleeper a little nudge as they enter hypnagogia.

The first iteration of the device used an electroencephalograph (EEG) on the head and a pressure sensor in a glove. The subject wears the glove and headband, then make a fist before going to sleep. The sensors in the glove detect when muscles relax, and brain waves change to show hypnagogia. At that point, a nearby robot will speak a phrase to prime the sleeper to think about a particular idea and record anything they said. The interruption also served to keep the subject from falling into a deeper sleep.

Dormio is currently on its second hardware iteration and the team already has plans for a third version that will use eyelid movement to track sleep states. The goal is to make Dormio so cheap and non-invasive that everyone can get a little creativity boost.

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Akhil was raised by movies, television, and the internet. A never-ending source of absolutely useless information. He would tell you more, but he was distracted by something shiny