Lessons in Sleep-Learning
Some college students facing exams used to try to study by sleeping with earphones on while playing a recording of material they had not managed to cover. It was regarded as a waste of time. Now, however, researchers at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot believe sleeplearning of new things may be possible – although it is not yet clear whether this would include complex information.
Professor Noam Sobel and colleagues published an article in the latest issue of Nature Neuroscience on learning new information while sleeping. They found that if certain odors are presented after sounding tones during sleep, people will start sniffing when they hear the tones alone – even when no odor is present – both during sleep and, later, when awake. In other words, people can learn new information while they sleep, and this can unconsciously modify their waking behavior.