The Science of Sleep

Learning While You Snooze  

The average American spends about 1/3 of his or her life sleeping. When you are trying to balance family, school, work and the rest of your responsibilities, spending seven to eight hours of your day asleep can seem like wasted time. With only so many hours in the day, it would be nice if you could make use of that time, wouldn’t it? Well sleeping with your textbook under your pillow isn’t going to help, but science has shown that there are some parts of your personal development you can improve while you sleep.Sleeping Woman

Music

No, you aren’t going to become a concert pianist while you sleep, but you can pick up on melodies by playing them while you snooze. In one scientific study, participants were asked to play a few melodies on a keyboard by following moving visual symbols. Then, they were asked to take a nap. During the rest, the participants heard one of the melodies they had been practicing. When they awoke, they practiced again, and all participants performed better on the particular sequence they heard while sleeping.

Remembering Your Special Memories

You can also use sleep time to train your brain to file away your most important memories. A study published in The Journal of Neuroscience found that listening to a sound linked to memory while asleep increased the chances of retaining that memory. In the study, researchers showed a series of images linked to sounds, such as a ringing bell. Then, the participants slept. Some participants heard the sounds being played while sleeping, and ethers heard nothing. When they awoke, those who heard the sounds while sleeping could recall more of the objects than those who did not.

Foreign Language Vocabulary

Does one of your goals for personal development include learning a foreign language? Then consider playing recordings of your basic vocabulary words while you sleep! In a study of Germans learning Dutch, those who heard basic words or phrases played while sleeping were better able to identify and translate the words than those who heard nothing. The same results were not seen if the individuals listened to the words while taking a walk, showing that the retention was tied directly to sleep.

Why This Works

So why can you learn while you sleep? The truth is, you can’t learn something new while you sleep, but studies have shown that sleep is the time when your brain consolidates information, turning it into long-term memories or disposing of information that is not important. By re-exposing your brain to the things you have already been exposed to, you can transmit them to long-term memory. This is great news for those who are trying to learn something new while taking care of home and family responsibilities! The next time you have something important you wish to remember, go ahead and play it back for yourself while you sleep!

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