Sleep plays a crucial part in a person’s ability to form memory, boost memory consolidation, store important information, and boost learning. During sleeping hours, the brain cycles through several stages of rapid eye movement and non-REM sleep for optimal functioning and restful, rejuvenating sleep. However, it is thought that our mind must be awake to learn new things — so how do we learn when we spend several hours each day asleep? After multiple studies, learning during sleep is not as far-fetched as people may think.
What is Sleep Learning?
With twenty-four hours in a day, and approximately ⅓ of that time spent asleep, it seems as if there is not enough time to get all things done that we need from working, cooking, cleaning, and remembering all of the things learned throughout waking hours. As you sleep, the brain cycles through many phases of NREM deep sleep and REM sleep, where dreams occur.
After countless hours of research, scientists believe conveying information to sleeping people, through auditory cues or sound recordings, allows the brain to absorb the information — similar to hypnosis.
Types of Memory
Scientists suggest there are two main types of memory: declarative memory and procedural memory.
Declarative memory is a common type of long-term memory based on factual information, such as the capital of New York. As the body goes through various cycles of Rapid Eye Movement and Non-REM sleep, findings suggest that REM sleep plays a crucial part in forming and processing declarative memories. New research suggests slow-wave sleep also plays a crucial role in processing declarative memory.
Procedural memories rely on REM sleep for consolidation and storage. These memories are responsible for allowing a person to recall the “how” of doing something, such as driving a car, typing on a computer, or using the telephone. We rely on procedural memories to successfully perform daily activities, as these are tasks often done without thought.
How does Learning Occur in the Brain?
There are several types of brain waves that interchange throughout the day, depending on what activity you are doing. Gamma waves are the longest brain waves, and are linked to memory processing, memory consolidation, learning, and problem-solving capabilities, allowing a person to access newly learned picture memories and more.
As you are in a deep sleep, the human brain spends a lot of time in a Delta or Theta state, which is significantly slower than the brain waves needed for learning to take place - leaving researchers to believe that learning while asleep is next to impossible.
Sleep specialists report the average adult needs at least 8 hours of sleep per night to allow the brain to rest, relax, and reset. However, during this time a sleeping brain is also performing vital functions in transmitting neural passages of memory formation to a targeted area for storage.
Without enough sleep, medically referred to as sleep deprivation, neural pathways are not able to form or strengthen appropriately, leaving the body and mind to feel overly tired, and unable to process things appropriately. You may find yourself not able to react quickly while driving, or forgetting simple things, such as how to make your morning coffee, or where you placed your keys.
Where did Hypnopaedia Originate?
With no real evidence of hypnopaedia, or sleep learning, it is thought to be a relatively new concept; however, it dates back to the early 1900s. In 1911, science fiction writer Hugo Gernsback originally published a story that references sleep learning as a real possibility. While not many people gave this information a second thought, nearly two decades later Alois Saliger introduced the Psycho Phone to the world. Saliger believed that deep sleep was the same concept as hypnosis, in that there is the potential to be equally influenced while asleep.
In 1932, Aldous Huxley released a publication featuring hypnopaedia. Throughout the novel, moral messages are instilled through messages repeated as a person slept through the night. Though brought about from several publications, scientists do not believe sleep-learning (hypnopaedia) is possible.
How does Sleep Learning Work?
Hypnopaedia, commonly referred to as sleep learning, is thought to work by playing audio recordings or sound recordings to a person as they sleep. Researchers discovered sleepers can learn, store, and retain knowledge without being awake. While scientists do not believe a person can learn ample amounts of information while sleeping, it is thought that small, simple pieces of information may be absorbed by a sleeping person.
During a study conducted in 2016, EEG recordings revealed that words played to sleeping participants throughout the study were noticed by the brain. The researchers discovered that while there were traces of the memory within neural pathways, it did not present as a memory learned during waking hours. Sleep learning information is not passed through the prefrontal cortex, making it unretrievable the next day.
Types of Learning That can Take Place During Sleep
Sleep plays a crucial role in the ability of the brain to retain information and formulate a memory. When a person becomes sleep deprived, the brain becomes significantly impaired, leaving a person to suffer from impaired judgment, poor decision-making skills, and other various disorders. Many types of learning take place during sleep such as:
While sleep plays a vital role in allowing optimal brain function, Rapid Eye Movement (REM sleep) sleep plays a crucial role in strengthening neural pathways, allowing the brain to retain problem-solving skills. Problem-solving skills are needed throughout the day to accomplish various tasks, such as driving a vehicle, or completing work tasks. When a person’s decision-making ability is impaired, it leaves them at an increased risk of a workplace injury, or motor vehicle accident.
It has been known for several decades the importance of sleep in regards to allowing the brain to recall certain memories; however, researchers have recently discovered that adequate sleep allows between 20% and 40% memory retention and recall. Deep NREM sleep, or slow wave peaks, has been proven especially important in the role of memory recall.
Long-term memory allows us to recall a certain pastime, whether it be a childhood memory, or information learned a significant period of time ago. Slow-wave sleep is vital in carrying long-term memories from the hippocampus to other permanent storage spaces within the brain.
Making Associations in Your Sleep
Nature Neuroscience journal published a study conducted in 2012 by Israeli researchers where they tested the brain's ability to make associations during sleep. As a study participant slept, scientists conducted research by playing a certain sound, then spraying a foul-smelling spray such as spoiled fish, rotten eggs, or the smell of cigarette smoke. When participants woke, scientists would play the sound, and participants would hold their breath as they waited for the unpleasant odor to pass that was expected. The oscillatory brain activity associated with cigarette smoking behaviors following a study such as this triggers the mind to associate sounds that it learned while asleep.
How can You Learn in Your Sleep?
Although research suggests simple things such as words or smells can be learned and retained through sleep, the best way to learn important things is to obtain the information during waking hours, and then get quality sleep, allowing your brain to retain the information. As you sleep, neural pathways strengthen within your mind to enhance memory performance, targeted memory reactivation, and memory consolidation. Researchers believe a sleeping brain is a working brain, allowing for sleep learning to form new memories, new language, and new words.
How PlushBeds can Help You Sleep Better
The highly skilled and dedicated team at PlushBeds has curated handcrafted, sustainable products sure to fit all of your needs from a new mattress, mattress topper, pillows, bedding, and bed frames. We spend at least 7 to 8 hours of the day sleeping in bed, so why not ensure your sleep space is healthy and safe?
Whether you desire a latex mattress, memory foam mattress, or gel memory foam mattress, all of PlushBeds products are made with natural, organic material to ensure a healthy sleep space night after night. Through the rigorous testing all products undergo, less than 1% of competitors can match the purity of our mattresses.
We believe you cannot test a mattress for a few minutes in the store and decide if it is the right fit for you, which is why we provide customers who purchase a new mattress with a 100-night risk-free trial. After receiving your mattress through our fast, free shipping, try it out for up to 100 nights before deciding if it is right for you.
At PlushBeds, we understand the importance of excellent sleep in order to learn, retain, and better recall information in both short-term and long-term storage. With absolute customer satisfaction, you are sure to achieve the best night’s sleep you have gotten in years with the purchase of our high-quality mattresses, pillows, and bedding. We look forward to serving you in all of your bedding needs, and allowing you a safe sleep space each night!
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