Want To Learn A Skill? Practice In Your Sleep

When you're sleeping, you're learning.

Let's cut through the pillow talk: you may be learning in your dreams.

Need evidence? Look to a French study from 2011 in which researchers took patients with sleepwalking-like conditions and taught them a series of dance moves. They then recorded them sleeping and lo and behold the subjects did the dance while they were at rest.

The study shows that our bodies and brains don't turn "off" while we sleep, they work over the things we've learned during the day.

As we've discussed before, sleep has a number of amazing functions, one which is consolidating memories. That's why if you get less sleep, you'll form fewer memories--a major bummer for the insanely busy set.

It's unsurprising, then, that our dreams show that integration. The scientists say that while we're sleeping our brains are sifting through our days, looking for the most important events, and connecting them to previous experience. This, Paul says, provides an explanation as to why dreams are such a salad of recent events and distant memories.

"A dream about something we’ve just learned seems to be a sign that the new knowledge has been processed effectively," she continues.

A pair of very smart studies further evidence this: a 2010 Harvard Medical School study reflected that students who dreamed of a computer maze problem were 10 times more likely to navigate said labyrinth than participants who didn't dream of the maze. Amazing, right?

But there's more to state about dreams: in a 2010 study, Swiss researcher Daniel Erlacher asked people to dream of tossing coins into a cup. Upon waking, those who actually did dream of the coin tossing got way better at the task in real life. Further proof that if you dream on, you can dream until your dreams come true.

Hat tip: the Brilliant Report

Ever worked on something while dreaming? Don't sleep on it: let us know in the comments.

[Image: Flickr user David Morris]

Add New Comment

3 Comments

  • Lucid dreaming, where you are in control of your dreams, generally takes quite a bit of practice and dream-journaling (where you document your dreams immediately upon waking and daily). The act of capturing the dream after the fact seems to have the effect of allowing the dreamer to become conscious during the dream state later. There's also some trick of preparing for the dream before going to sleep. I've only done this a couple times - but it's awesome.

  • This is downright amazing! But the thing is, I have tried to make myself dream about some specific things during my sleep, but it just doesn't work! According to me, one cannot force oneself to dream about something in particular. One just can't have a control over her/his dreams!