On any given night, you slip into your favorite PJs, apply your fave Korean beauty products and snuggle up under the covers, settling in for a long night of…. learning? Yep, that’s right. A new study published in the journal Science shows that sleepytime can be the best time to cement your learning of a wide range of skills. Whether you’re picking up French, learning to code or even mastering your ping pong game, exposing your senses to the right triggers during slumber can lead you to wake up with improved performance.
While you sleep, your brain is busy processing and consolidating everything you’ve learned during the day. While it’s highly unlikely to acquire a new skill from scratch during this time (bummer), it’s very possible to boost your memory and enhance the reinforcement process of skills you’re currently learning. You can also generalize what you’ve learned, meaning that you can connect the new information with existing information stored in your brain and apply your findings to many different situations. For example, the perfect amount of time to hold back before hitting the tennis ball could also apply to other areas of your life where timing plays a big role, like when to speak up in a meeting.
Involving your senses, both while learning and sleeping, has been shown to be one way to tap into the communication between the hippocampus (where memories are created) and other cortical areas (where memories are stored). One study shows subjects mastering the board game Concentration by sniffing scents while playing and then again while sleeping. Another study found that participants excelled at Guitar Hero after hearing soft strains of the melody as they slept. And yet another study found that listening to Dutch vocabulary while they slept helped Swiss German speakers learn the language more easily.
Could applying a “sleep cognitive enhancer” soon become part of our nightly routines? Only time will tell. In the meantime, it certainly couldn’t hurt to put your headphones on and fall asleep listening to those vocabulary words you’ve been studying or sniffing the scent of the candle that was burning while you learned chess. At the very least, it’s promising that a good bit of research has been dedicated to this often under appreciated part of our lives, especially in a culture that frowns upon unproductive downtime.
What skill would you want to improve in your sleep? Tweet us @BritandCo!
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