THERE are only 24 hours in a day, and usually, about a third of that is spent sleeping. So, is it possible to make use of this time and prepare for an exam? In other words, is sleep study possible?
The answer is yes and no, depending on what we mean by “learning.”
Absorbing complex information or picking up a new skill from scratch by, say, listening to an audio recording during sleep is almost certainly impossible. But research shows that the sleeping brain is far from idle and that some forms of learning can happen. However, whether that’s worth losing sleep over has yet to be determined.
Stimulating the sleeping brain with new information likely disrupts the functions of sleep, negatively affecting the pruning and strengthening of what we have learned over the previous day.
While losing quality sleep to potentially learn a few words is not a smart trade-off, researchers continue to study sleep learning because the compromise may be worth it in special cases. For example, sleep learning could be useful when people need to change a habit or alter stubborn disturbing memories in cases of phobias and post-traumatic stress disorder, but it’s not encouraged in students to help achieve higher grades.
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