We spend nearly 1/3 of the day asleep. While sleep is absolutely integral to the health and wellbeing of both our minds and bodies, there are people who want to spend those sleep hours a little more productively. Maybe by acquiring new skills. Which brings us to the question, can you learn new things when you sleep? The answer is yes, you can, but it depends on what you mean by learning. You can’t learn a whole new language from scratch until you become proficient in it in your sleep. Learning in your sleep is a little more subtle than that.
Why is sleep recommended when it comes to learning?
Scientists have known for long that to truly learn and remember something you have to get some sound sleep. It is vital to the whole learning process. Sleep helps you consolidate our memory. Suppose you read something today that you want to file away in your memory, you need to ensure you sleep soundly tonight. Because unless you allow yourself to sleep soundly, that memory will not be consolidated.
When you sleep, your brain sifts through everything you have learnt that day, organises and categorizes it and deletes all the irrelevant information. This entire process is responsible for creating a memory. And once your brain has created a memory of the thing you had learnt, you will be able to reproduce it any time you want.
Does sleep do more than just forming memories?
For a very long time, scientists thought that the only association sleep has with learning is helping your brain consolidate memory. But new studies have thrown light on a startling new fact- that faculty of your brain that is responsible for learning and accumulating new information stays very much active even when you are sleeping.
According to scientists, your brain continues to record bits of new information and stash it away for later use. Apparently, you will be able to learn and memorize words from a new language while you are asleep.
If you play an audio recording of foreign words and their meanings while you are asleep, your brain can memorize them.
What really surprised scientists is that even after waking up, people can recollect the words they had learnt while they were asleep. This happens even if they have no clear memory of them listening to an audio that played those words in their sleep.
This form of learning takes place through what is called implicit memory. And this is not just limited to expanding your vocabulary but learning much beyond that. Just make sure that the information being relayed is played in a loop, reiteration helps your sleeping brain retain the memory better.
Does this happen throughout your sleep duration?
No, there is a caveat, learning can take place during short-wave sleep. Essentially, when you are in a phase of light sleep, your brain is much more active than during deep sleep or Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep and that is why it is more sensitive to external stimuli.
To conclude, learning in your sleep is an exciting concept because unlike other learning methods, you don’t have to do much other than play a recording and fall asleep. So if you have time on your hands, you can give it a try.