The University of Sleep
Try this: put a book under your pillow before falling asleep tonight. Tomorrow morning, you’ll have its entire contents memorized – kidding! Yes, you might not have the superpower of exchanging a night of studying for sleep but there are skills you can strengthen while snoozing.
We desperately wanted to read “The Sleep Revolution” by Arianna Huffington but work was tiring him out before 9 pm (no naps at work, yet). Luckily, scientists and several new studies might show promise. The time has come to climb into bed to boost memory and learn new skills.
Hallo! Attempting to learn a foreign language but don’t want to lose sleep over it? An Oxford Journal study from German scientists experimented how sleep can help word recognition. The study involved native German speakers learning Dutch, with some basic vocabulary. Without the Germans knowing, scientists played the sounds of Dutch words to one group while they slept – the second group weren’t exposed to any of the sounds. When tested, the group that heard the sounds found it easier to translate the Dutch to German.
To make sure the findings correlated to sleep, the scientists played the sounds to a group of walkers and the results still showed the sleeping group performed better.
Test it out – Even if you’re not learning a foreign language, play the sounds of something you want to learn. The next morning test your memory. Did it work?
Are you a musician or music enthusiast trying to memorize a melody? Don’t fret. This published study from Nature Neuro Journal may help. The researchers taught participants a guitar melody – Guitar Hero reference anyone? After the lesson, participants took a nap and the melody was played again during their siesta.
The second group learned the same melody sans nap. The napping group performed the melody much better than the second group.
Test it out – Teach yourself a new melody on your instrument of choice. Play the sound on loop while sleeping. When you wake, try playing the melody. Are you the next Mozart now?
Protect special memories from fading
Remembering important dates and vital information can be difficult. Could lack of sleep be the culprit? The Journal of Nero Science published a study
Participants in the study placed icons in specific places on a computer while listening to corresponding sounds. One group took a short nap – the other didn’t. Not surprising, the napping group were able to find the icons quicker.
Test it out – When looking at photos or memorable notes, listen to a corresponding sound for that memory. After 2 weeks, try to recall details of that memory without any prompts.
Sleep and the brain
Overnight while we sleep, brain activity shifts. Some of us spend more time in the slow-wave sleep phase, the period of sleep that allows our short term memories to move into the long-term storage of our prefrontal cortex.
Time to put on our thinking caps and increase learning while we get much needed sleep. If you’re in that group, get ready to learn in your sleep!