Learn While You Sleep? Study Shows You Can
Sleep takes up a large portion of our days. The average American gets between six to eight hours of sleep a night. Think about what you could be doing or learning in that period of time! If you could only be productive while you sleep, you could finally have the time to learn a new skill. Interestingly enough, studies now show that you can learn while you sleep.
What Science Told Us Before
There is a long history behind the idea of finding out whether or not humans can retain information while sleeping. In 1914 a German psychologist, Rosa Heine, was curious about how sleep plays a role with memory. She found that those who learned new material before they went to sleep had an easier time recalling that information than those who tried to learn something new during the day. Over the years, scientists and researchers conducted more experiments and tests to see whether people can learn as they sleep. Along the way they debunked many myths but came to one conclusion, the brain can absorb implicit memories while sleeping.
The Relationship Between Sleep and Memory
The human body needs sleep. It is the way the brain cleanses itself from toxic molecules that could lead to brain disorders, like Alzheimer’s, further down the road. There is a close relationship between sleep and memory. When you sleep, the brain takes the events from the day and replays them. This process helps the brain learn from life’s daily events, permanently storing them in the mind. The rest of the day’s tangible events, say buying a soda or standing in line at the ATM, are erased. The memories your brain knows to delete frees up space for the next day’s pertinent memories.
What Skills Can You Learn While You Sleep?
While it is true that you can learn while you sleep, there is no promise that you’ll be able to learn everything you need to know the night before your next bio-chem exam. Music and language are some of the top two skills where people seem to be able to retain memories of while getting some shut-eye. In one study, researchers had a group of people learn guitar melodies using the video game, Guitar Hero. Afterward, the whole group took a nap. Researchers then played the same tune they had learned to half of the group. When everyone woke up, they were asked to play the song again. What researchers saw was that the group who had heard the song while sleeping played the tune better than the group who didn’t listen to it.
If you’re traveling to Europe this summer, you might want to consider using your sleeping hours to learn a new language. In one experiment, researchers had participants who are native German speakers try to learn Dutch. Similar to the experiment with the music, they studied basic vocabulary and then were asked to take a nap. The researchers played the sound of the basic words the group studied to only half of the participants. When the group woke, the half who listened to the words while sleeping was better able to translate them.
Lesson learned. Be kind to your brain and allow yourself to get a good nights rest. You’re being more productive than you think by giving your mind a much-needed break from the day.