Learning While You Sleep?
Can you learn while you sleep? Can sleeping help you learn? Here’s what the experts know:
1. Newborn babies can actually learn while they sleep, according to University of Florida researchers featured in a Science Daily article on sleep. In their experiments, a tone was sounded, followed by a puff of air against the eyelids of sleeping babies. After several repetitions, they’d squeeze their eyelids shut at the sound of the tone – even when there was no puff of air. This kind of simple, direct learning during sleep doesn’t seem to happen in adults – so forget the idea of putting on a tape of your history professor and waking up with the knowledge in your head.
2. Our brains may create memories during sleep. A new study by University of Michigan researchers suggests that some people do process information while they sleep, allowing them to improve their memories while awake. Not everybody seems to have the ability – or at least make use of it.
3. Sleep strengthens your waking memories. Back in 2007, Science Daily reported on a sleep study that measured how sleep affected memory. Learning information in the evening and then getting a good night’s sleep can apparently protect those memories from interference the next day. But learning information in the morning and then going a full day collecting more memories can lead to muddling of the things you learned early in the day.
Better Sleep = Better Memory
While the mechanisms behind sleep and memory are still poorly understood, the research does emphasize how important it is to get a good night’s sleep. It may be that the ability to bring nighttime learning abilities from infancy into adulthood has something to do with the amount of regular sleep we get.
Are you one of the 63% of Americans who don’t get enough sleep (according to the National Sleep Foundation)? Your sense that your memory isn’t what it used to be may be related to your sleep schedule.
What keeps you from sleeping enough? Is the chance at a better memory worth the changes you’d need to make to get a full night’s sleep?