Sleep Learning

I know there is research showing that people can "learn while sleeping" at a limited level. Apparently studies showed you can teach someone's sleeping brain to associate scents with memories...however, this isn't what I am interested in.

If you study brainwave entrainment at all I am sure you are familiar with alpha waves being referred to as the "super learning" state. Interestingly enough, whenever a professional athlete executes a quality shot/ drive/ whatever, their brain emits an alpha burst.

Alpha waves also promote hemispheric synchronization (which allows for peak performance). So, if in the alpha state the brain learns and performs better, and alpha is a stage well on the way from beta to delta during the normal sleep cycle, then can we learn new skills while FALLING ASLEEP?

I guess I wonder if I can start listening to the Pimsleur foreign language lessons (for example) while I am lying in bed and dozing off and see any marked improvements in my language skills.

This may not be relevant at all, but I do recall when I was in AIT in the military I graduated from 31 series communications school (highly technical stuff) as the distinguished honor graduate, and I was in trouble EVERY DAY for falling asleep in class.

I think I am going to give it a try...but I wonder if anyone else has experience with this, or has some input to add....?
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  • The interesting thing about BWE (brainwave entrainment) is that the brain can produce heightened activity in several different frequencies simultaneously. So if you have a reliable way to entrain yourself into an Alpha state while studying, you can get all the benefits of that without the hit-and-miss aspects of trying to time audio recordings while lying in bed waiting to fall asleep.

    I've messed around with various subliminal programs, both audio and visual, but never found any results from that. I mention it here because in my experiments with that I read somewhere that audio subliminal only works within a window of approximately 30 minutes of falling asleep. Possibly there's a similar effect on the other side of waking up. It could all be BS, but it seems to add another argument in favor of enhanced learning in the Alpha/high Theta state.

    I've also heard and read all over that Theta has an effect on learning, so if you're looking into entrainment, you might experiment with that.

    The question is, how to go about it? The cheapest and easiest is probably audio BWE, and the most flexible tool I know of for that is Neuroprogrammer3 from

    They also have a program called Mind Stereo that allows you to weave entrainment tracks into your favorite music, but the limitation there is that you have to be at your computer listening; it doesn't allow you to export tracks to a portable player, probably for copyright reasons.

    This of course works best if you're awake and reading. You could design an audio track with NP3 using audio from a language course like Pimsleur or etc, with one or more entrainment tracks underneath, but I wouldn't try it at night.

    After about 10 years of fiddling around with all this stuff, I'm pretty solidly convinced that when the brain is well and truly asleep, that's it: nothing's coming in. And having entrainment and other audio going on during your sleep hours will also wreck the quality of what sleep you get.

    I suppose it's possible that your brain could be in deep Delta while also having activity in the Alpha or Theta bandwidth such that information could make its way in, but it's never worked for me.

    Anyway, if you have specific questions about this or that, I might be able to answer, but otherwise I'd probably just ramble on in a very unhelpful manner.
  • AndreasAndreas ✭✭
    edited February 2013
    @anthonylee -- Three decades back Sheila Ostrander and Lynn Schroeder built on some research originally done in the Eastern block and published a book called "Super Learning" - an early brain hacking technology.

    If memory serves, the approach had four key components.
    • Relaxation-- An Eames chair with an ottoman always seemed just about right for these experiments (any recliner would do).
    • Music -- the system used adagio movements of baroque music. These slow movements typically have around 60 beats and reportedly help coax ones brain into an alpha wave state (or some state similar to what children have when they sponge up all the information around them).
    • Breathing -- the system then had you breath in a regular pattern, something like inhale for 6 seconds, hold for 6 seconds, exhale for 6 seconds, hold for 6 seconds (then repeat). Thinking about it, I fall into the same breathing pattern when I do HeartMath.
    • Information delivery -- The approach would then deliver recorded information in short 6 second snippets during the breath holding intervals. It claimed that during these specific intervals the brain could most readily absorb information.

    The authors formed a company and sold some music tapes and even some language learning programs. They claimed that foreign correspondents and state department staff used them.

    In those days of audio tape and limited home availability of multitrack recording devices assembling one's own learning in the above structure proved challenging, but the times I did do it I felt like I had simply uploaded the information into my brian.

    I have to admit that the book and the approach all seemed a bit of a scam, more reports of all the miracles the approach produced than real explanations of why it worked, but I think the authors did stumble on somethings that had merit.
  • Mostly agree with hza, however, not with:

    'hza' wrote:

    After about 10 years of fiddling around with all this stuff, I'm pretty solidly convinced that when the brain is well and truly asleep, that's it: nothing's coming in.

    I remember studies about the showing that there is information coming in during the K-complex. You have most probably experienced this yourself when an outside noise (e.g. a phone ringing) somehow manifests itself inside a dream. I can't find a reference right now, though.

    And I also don't claim this is useful for learning or sleep hacking or anything. Just evidence that stuff DOES come in.
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