Can You Learn In Your Sleep? Science Says It’s Possible, But There’s A Catch
You've probably heard people say that there aren't enough hours in a day. What they mean to say is there aren't enough awake hours because, let's be honest, life would be so much easier if you could pass some responsibility onto your subconscious. Up until now, hypnopedia has been discredited by scientists, but new research shows learning in your sleep might not be so mythical after all.
The study focused on 20 volunteers who were instructed to listen to a series of recordings that had been split into acoustic patterns while they slept. Once awake, participants were then asked to identify the sequences buried in the white noise. Miraculously enough, they completed the task correctly.
There is a ton of information out there debating whether or not hypnopedia is possible, and while it can be confusing, here's what the new research shows.
What you remember will depend on your sleep stage.
According to neuroscientist and lead author on the study Thomas Andrillon,
Sequences presented during non-REM sleep led to worse performance, as if there were a negative form of learning — suggesting that memories are alternately pruned or strengthened depending on the sleep stage, a reconciling of two dueling hypotheses on the purposes of sleep.
Because each participant was able to pinpoint where the strategical patterns were placed throughout the recordings, the experiment clearly proves that, sleep or awake, your brain is constantly churning and alert.
But because this study focused on memorization rather than, say, learning a new language, you probably shouldn't leave studying for a big exam to your subconscious.
REM and Non-REM sleep have equivalent roles when it comes to memory.
Dr. Nitun Verma, MD, MBA, Crossover Health, and spokesperson for the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, tells Elite Daily,
While how to time sleep to increase learning is still being understood, here is what we now know. The stages of sleep affect learning differently. REM sleep, for example is the sleep where most dreams occur. Maintaining REM sleep helps learn new cognitive (mental) procedures. Slow wave sleep, like what's found in stage three sleep, helps learning large amounts of factual information and motor skills.
In layman's terms, your brain is basically compartmentalizing information and memory while you sleep. You wake up remembering what your brain has deemed important information -- anything extra has probably been suppressed.
Scientists have not determined whether or not we can explicitly learn while we sleep.
Now that it's been proven we're capable of learning throughout specific stages of our sleep cycles, the next step would be to experiment with new skill sets. Past research suggests picking up a new language in your sleep may not be realistic, but hey, I like to stay optimistic.
It would be brilliant to prove that the human brain could explicitly learn a new skill not only subconsciously, but in a matter of hours.
Andrillon, however, suggests scientists tread cautiously on the matter, as it could be detrimental to our brain functionality.