We all know how important a good sleep pattern is. We’ve read numerous articles, heard endless radio features or watched videos on the subject of sleep and its restorative powers. It’s all true, of course – sleep is great. It helps energise us through the day, it has mood-boosting qualities, and aids concentration. Modern athletes take sleep as seriously as their workout routine because it is essential for muscle recovery.
You may be unsure of the benefits of trying to learn while sleeping. The most obvious example is putting Rosetta Stone on your iPod and falling asleep, hoping you’ll wake the next morning speaking fluent Cantonese. It’s not as farfetched as it seems. A recent study by Cambridge scientists suggests you really can learn while you sleep.
Head of research Dr Kouider said speech processing and other complex tasks “can be done not only without being aware of what you perceive, but also without being aware at all.”
Further evidence for sleep-learning comes from a recent study by Cornell University. It was found the brain chooses to transfer information from short term to long term memory when sleeping. This is done unconsciously using ‘sleep spindles’ – powerful brainwaves at work during REM. It seems that it’s more than practice that makes perfect!
There’s more. As well as assisting learning, sleep can improve creativity. Dreams and the unconscious mind play an important role in this; it isn’t uncommon for great artists to wake from a dream and finally have the resolution to a novel or a new piece of music in mind – the guitar riff in Satisfaction by The Rolling Stones came to Keith Richards in a dream.
These new connections, made by the brain, were uncovered by a Berkeley Study in 2007. According to the research we makes ‘remote associations’ during sleep, having thoughts we wouldn’t be capable of while awake. Apparently we’re 33% more likely to make connections based on seemingly distantly related ideas when asleep.
Sleep doesn’t just help form new ideas and memories when we’re resting; it is important for consolidating memories and information we took on during the day as well. After learning, sleep helps cement new information so we have better recall when we’re awake. Forgo sleep and you might very well forget all that learning you did the day before.
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