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Can You Learn While You Sleep?

Posted On January 15, 2014
January 15, 2014

You confess. You have always been a procrastinator. Many a day and night would be spent at the last minute studying for any number of final exams. You often thought to yourself, “How great would it be if I could put my textbooks under my pillow and will the information into my brain by diffusion as I sleep?” What you might think as pure fantasy isn’t too far off the mark from reality. Believe it or not, it is possible to learn while you sleep. What a great idea to maximize the time we spend sleeping! After all it is estimated that 30% of our lives here on earth is spent with our eyes closed and our heads resting on a pillow.

Research Showed…

Despite the fact that we are not conscious when we sleep, our brains can still grasp information—especially sensory information. In the past, studies looked at a possible relationship between our sense of smell and memory. Research published in Science demonstrated that there is a connection between smell and memory while a person sleeps. The group found that subjects were able to recall a past memory if there was an association with an odor when they awoke from sleeping. A group of researchers in Israel decided to take their study a step further. Their experiment paired a tone with a scent and discovered that the sleeping participants were able to be conditioned to have the same response to the tone as they did to the smell. They concluded that our brains while asleep can process sensory stimuli, such as an odor, in the same way that we can while we are awake.

It is one thing to make a connection between a smell and a memory and another to make one between words and the sound they make, and then make the leap toward understanding. After the smell/memory studies, researchers decided to look into sounds and comprehension. Northwestern University investigators had a theory that a short tune could be learned by study subjects during sleep. The results of their theory were shared in Nature Neuroscience, which demonstrated that a 12-note tune could be learned during sleep if the notes were played during said sleep. They found that the participants had a 4 percent increase in the recall of the tune over than those who did not hear the tune when they slept. According to Paul Reber, co-author of the study, what the results boil down to is that if learning while sleeping is connected to a specific sound, then the information will be remembered.

So if you have the desire to learn Spanish, German, French, or any other language, it might help to play language CDs while you sleep. Or if you need to remember historical facts from a lecture, record the professor’s talk and listen while you sleep. Or if you would like to be the hit of the party by playing a show tune on the piano, listen to the melody for a couple of nights. What have you got to lose?

If you would like to find out more or believe that you might have a serious health issue like sleep apnea, please contact one of our medical concierges today at 1-855-863-4537 or schedule a free consultation.

About Phoebe Ochman

Phoebe Ochman, Director of Communications for Sleep Apnea Treatment Centers of America, manages all content and communications for the company.
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