Sometimes we use sleep to forget…wash away the stresses of the real world in a world of dreamy unreality. But maybe you’ve gone to sleep with the intent to remember…a to-do list, an answer to an exam question…only to awake knowing that you are forgetting something you meant to remember? For years, creative entrepreneurs and marketers have promised you can learn a new language, calculus, or a variety of other topics in your sleep. Time magazine even had an article about one approach as far back as 1948! Generally, these programs have also included a healthy dose of reading, writing and ‘rithmetic to activate sleep’s special powers (which seems alot like studying to me!). And until Aldous Huxley’s brave new world of hypnopaedia arrives, we’re left wondering can sleep help us remember? Now, real researchers at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, may have some insight into using your sleep to help you remember. In an experiment published in the 20 November issue of…Science! (exclamation mark added for Thomas Dolby fans), they demonstrated that sound cues while sleeping significantly enhanced subjects ability to remember.
Subjects were cued with a distinct sound for each memorization task while awake. During sleep, the unique audio cues were played back. After waking, subjects who had the audio cues played back during sleep performed significantly better on the memorization task associated with the audio cue than those who listened to white noise alone. And they didn’t even recall hearing the sound cues while sleeping. So, will listening to Beethoven while studying and sleeping get you better grades? No promises are made by the researchers (they are men and women of science, not sales, afterall!), but listening to audio cues sure seems to beat having an electrical current sent to your brain while sleeping (as some German researchers report as effective). It would also seem like a no-risk experiment to conduct for yourself! Sources: Strengthening Individual Memories by Reactivating Them During Sleep (Science) Learn While You Sleep. ( MIT Technology Review) Aldous Huxley, Brave New World, Hypnopaedia Mid-century sleep and learning citation list