On average, we humans sleep about 8 hours per night for 75 years. When you add up the hours, it comes down to 22,000 hours in a lifetime. That’s a lot of extra time. So, what if we could use that time productively, like, for instance, spend it to learn a new language?
Benjamin Franklin said, “there will be sleeping enough in the grave.” Jon Bon Jovi made the term “sleep when I’m dead” famous. And then there was Thomas Edison, who said that a person who sleeps eight to ten hours per night is never fully asleep nor fully awake.
The CEO of Apple gets up at 3:45 am every day and answers his emails, and gets a proper workout in, all before 6:00 am. This is because the idea of losing hours to sleep is being packaged as a loss of productivity. But on the flip side of the coin, roughly 36% of all Americans are sleep-deprived.
Our lives are short on time and sleep, it seems, so where do we find a few extra hours to do the things we want to accomplish, like learning a foreign language?
Is It Possible to Learn a Language in Your Sleep?
Sleep-learning (hypnopedia) is the art of acquiring new information while you’re asleep, and it’s something that quite a lot of scientists and marketers are still trying to ace. There’s just something about the idea of switching on a recording when you hit the sack, only to wake up with newly acquired knowledge in the morning, that sounds like the answer to all our problems.
There is power in the unconscious. Many people have woken up from comas and suddenly had surprising new expertise in languages they couldn’t speak before. An Australian woke up from a week-long coma and was fluent in Mandarin. A young English footballer woke up believing he was Matthew McConaughey and could suddenly speak French. And then there was the Croatian girl that woke up with the ability to speak German.
Sadly, there isn’t a lot of evidence on hypnopedia.
The most recent studies only show that there are some advantages of listening to previously learned information in your sleep. A 2014 study also indicated that sleep-learning could promote memory encoding, just like regular learning. That’s probably because, in order to learn, the brain needs to be alert so it can listen, but if this happens while you’re sleeping, it prevents you from getting the kind of sleep that’s critical for the mind.
Is Sleep Really That Important?
Although we can’t really learn while we’re sleeping, it doesn’t mean that sleeping isn’t essential for learning. Your brain works hard (once your body goes to sleep) to process all the information you took in during the day.
Slow-wave sleep (SWS) is the opposite of the REM phase of sleep, where most dreaming occurs. SWS is actually essential for memory processing, and memory consolidation is linked to sleep spindles, which are short bursts of brain activity that happen during SWS. Sleep spindles are also involved in the reactivation of new information. So, the key to memory processing and faster learning lies in SWS.
Some of the world’s most successful businessmen might be promoting less sleep, optimizing every hour of their day, but it’s not the best idea. Instead of putting on an 8-hour foreign language learning video while you snooze, it might be counterproductive. Rather just close your eyes and get some rest. Your memory (and body) will thank you for it.
No Time to Learn a New Language?
We might not be able to learn a new language while we sleep, but luckily there are solutions to the language barrier. If you’re battling to cross that bridge, get in touch with Day Translations right now! Our team of expert linguists is here to help you better understand the world, regardless of what language hurdle you’re facing!